Left: Tumas Group CEO Yorgen Fenech; Right: Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri
The CEO of the business giant Tumas Group has been named as the owner of 17 Black, the mysterious Dubai company named as the target client of the Panama companies belonging to Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.
The Times of Malta and Reuters reported today that the police have received a report from Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) which named Yorgen Fenech as the owner of 17 Black. A source in the United Arab Emirates told Reuters that Fenech’s ownership of the company was confirmed by banking correspondence that summarised 17 Black’s banking activity in Dubai.
Reuters’ sources also confirmed that 17 Black had changed its name to Wings Development in March 2017, a few weeks after now-murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had first named the company in a cryptic blogpost. The sources also revealed that 17 Black’s bank account at the Noor Bank in Dubai were frozen last September and that UAE financial and law enforcement authorities are examining 17 Black’s activities following a request for assistance from the Maltese authorities.
Fenech refused to comment on whether he owns 17 Black or Wings Development but strongly denied having any links with the Panama companies or any politically exposed persons.
Tumas Group, along with the Gasan Group and pharmaceutical importer Paul Apap Bologna, are the Maltese partners in the Electrogas consortium which runs the LNG power station in Delimara. The other partners are Azerbaijan’s state-owned energy company Socar and German manufacturing giant Siemens.
A few months ago, the Daphne Project released an email financial services firm Nexia BT had sent now-defunct Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca in December 2015 – as part of the process to set up bank accounts for the Panama companies of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri. Nexia BT’s email states that the two companies will be involved in businesses around the world and that they will be primarily funded from two Dubai companies called 17 Black and Macbridge.
A leaked FIAU report confirmed that 17 Black had received at least three payments – one single payment of €161,000 from Mario Pullicino, the local agent for the tanker supplying gas to the LNG power station and two separate payments amounting to €1.1 million from an unnamed Azeri national.
The intelligence report had also ended up in the hands of Nationalist MEP David Casa, who published it last July, despite such action being punishable with five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to €116,468.
This new information will likely raise further questions as to whether Mizzi and Schembri had set up their Panama companies to receive kickbacks from the Electrogas power station. Mizzi and Schembri have denied this was the case, but while Schembri said he set up his company to expand his private business interests, Mizzi insisted he had set it up for family planning purposes. Mizzi’s claim goes against Nexia BT’s email to Mossack Fonseca, which referred to the two Panama companies in the same breath.