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After Phone Leak, Maltese Air Traffic Head Denies Advising Macedonian On Pocketing Commissions

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The CEO of Malta’s air navigation service provider has vehemently denied advising a Macedonian official on how to pocket commissions following a leaked phone conversation.

“I categorically and vehemently deny any allegation relating to the pocketing of commissions,” Kenneth Chircop told Lovin Malta. “This is absolutely untrue and is being hereby considered as libellous and defamatory. I suspect that such allegation is the fruit of erroneous translation and/or interpretation whereby the ‘commissioning of a system’ (putting into operation) has been confused with receiving monetary commissions.”

The conversation between Dragi Raskovski, secretary general of the Macedonian government, and Nikolche Taseski, President of the Macedonian air traffic control providers M-Nav, took place on 18th October 2018 but was recently leaked to the Russian video streaming service Rutube.

Nikolche Taseski (fourth from left) with Kenneth Chircop (third from right) during a visit by M-Nav to Malta in 2018

Nikolche Taseski (fourth from left) with Kenneth Chircop (third from right) during a visit by M-Nav to Malta in 2018

It appears to show the two officials planning to grant a tender funded by a European development bank to the Italian aerospace company Leonardo on the grounds that its bid would be cheaper, which means the Macedonian government could pocket the remainder.

The conversation took place in Macedonian but was translated to English by Rutube.

At one point, Taseski can be heard saying that, during a recent visit to Malta, he found out that the Malta Air Traffic Services (MATS) had purchased an air traffic management system from Leonardo but had declared it as an “upgrade” so as to avoid having to issue a call for public procurement.

At this remark, Raskovski can be heard laughing and stating that: “The Maltese are crooks as well”.

“Their system is very similar to the one we should buy,” Taskesi responded. “The Maltese CEO told me ‘Nick, remember one thing…you will not sign a commission until the very end when every issue has been cleared. The moment you sign, it’s over, and Leonardo won’t come back.’ They [the Maltese] have now written to the Italian embassy to flag serious omissions in the installation of the system.”

A translated clip of the conversation, as published on Rutube

A translated clip of the conversation, as published on Rutube

Chircop confirmed the a Macedonian delegate did indeed visit MATS last year with the objective being to see their air traffic management (ATM) system in operation.

“The reason given was that they were interested in Leonardo S.p.A ATM systems and wanted to see one in operation. Such visits are considered a normal occurrence between Air Navigation System Providers (ANSPs).”

“Whereas I am not at liberty to divulge commercially sensitive information I can state that MATS’ ATM System is indeed an upgrade since the previous system was also installed and commissioned by Leonardo.

He also denied that MATS had made any contacts with the Italian embassy.

“For the record, I would also like to make it amply clear that the New ATM System contract was negotiated and signed before I joined MATS in 2016,” he added.

Nikolche Taseski’s statement

As news reached me that a leak out from an illegally taped informal conversation regarding the commissioning of a new ATM system for M-NAV, at which I was present, was also published and used for a media spin in Malta, I feel obliged to clarify and deny any allegations of illegal activities.

I am strongly denying the allegations that at any point it was said that MATS or their CEO mentioned anything about taking a commission, as in taking percentage or bribe for the upgrade of their system. This is never said in the leaked conversation, nor during our meeting that took place in Malta.

This media frenzy that has started in our local media is considered an attack on the government through M-NAV, as a governmentally-owned company with the purpose of hindering if not at all making harm of our EU and NATO accession. The person responsible for the illegal taping and further disseminating the material is legally prosecuted in front of a criminal court.

I sincerely hope that this has not caused any damage to the cooperation between M-NAV and MATS, since we consider them our valuable partner, as I consider Mr. Chircop my personal friend.

READ NEXT: Serbian Suspect In Buġibba Stabbing Case Named By Malta’s Macedonian Community

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