Yorgen Fenech’s arrest on suspicion that he masterminded the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia has brought a renewed focus on the many deals he brokered with the current government and politicians.
Politicians may not be linked to the murder itself, as Muscat has claimed, but Yorgen Fenech’s government deals make this assassination political.
He was an instrumental figure in bringing Electrogas, the country’s energy supplier, to Malta’s shores. A topic vociferously followed by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia means the issue needs revisiting. Lovin Malta took a look at the case, five years after it was initially announced.
What is Electrogas?
The ElectroGas consortium was selected to build and operate the LNG power station in Delimara back in October 2013, with a deal eventually signed in April 2015.
ElectroGas is equally owned by three companies – German conglomerate Siemens, Azeri state energy company Socar and GEM Holdings, a Maltese business venture.
Tumas Group and Gasan Group own a third each of GEM Holdings while the other third is split into thirds. Two-thirds are owned by the Apap Bologna family, while the remaining one third is held by a company owned solely by Yorgen Fenech. Fenech is personally listed as one of three ElectroGas directors.
Socar purchases gas from standard suppliers like Shell and resells the stock at a benchmarked value to Electrogas, who transports the gas in liquid form and held in a tanker nestled in Delimara Bay. It is then converted to energy and distributed among homes in Malta.
The 18-year deal has always raised eyebrows, with Malta often paying a higher rate than most European counterparts, all while analysis indicates that Socar made close to €32 million in 2017 alone.
Meanwhile, Daphne also honed in on the fact that the Maltese government had guaranteed a €360 million loan taken out by Electrogas Malta
A pre-ordained deal?
Despite Electrogas and the government both insisting that the deal followed all the necessary procurement procedure, critics have long asserted that sale was pre-ordained before March 2013.
In June 2008, when Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was elected as Labour leader he immediately appointed Keith Schembri, then just a close associate, to be chairman of the Labour Party’s working group on energy. Konrad Mizzi would become the Labour spokesman for energy in September 2012.
By January 2013, Mizzi said the Labour Party had already tested the waters on their energy plan.
In April 2013, barely a month after winning a landslide election against the PN government, a call for expression of interests is issued by Enemalta for the power station project. Nexia BT managing partner Brian Tonna is appointed on Enemalta’s selection committee.
On 13th October, Electrogas is selected as the preferred bidders beating out significant players like Shell, Gazprom and Edison.
The next day, Daphne published an article claiming the deal all-too-clearly thrashed out well before the election, pointing to a quote Yorgen Fenech made in a Times of Malta.
“Yorgen Fenech, a director at Gem Holdings, the Maltese company with a 30 per cent stake in the winning consortium, said the specialised storage ship has already been contracted,” the article read.
“The devil is in the detail, and the government isn’t bothering to pretend anymore. That’s how far things have slipped already in seven months,” Daphne wrote.
The deal was agreed in April 2015.
On another note, while the PN was in government in 2009, Electrogas shareholder Paul Apap Bologna presented a proposal for the building of a new power station.
Former Electrogas shareholders Gasol are mentioned in the presentation, along with Maltese investors comprising a “diverse group of Maltese citizens and prominent business families”.
17 Black, Tillgate, Hearnville and Macbridge
Just days after returning to power in a landslide victory, Nexia BT began its attempts to open three offshore companies in Panama, Tillgate, Hearneville, and Egrant. The first two would be later revealed to be owned by Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.
Egrant was at one point claimed to be owned by Michelle Muscat, the wife of the Prime Minister. However, this was dismissed following an inquiry. The owner remains a mystery. The full inquiry was never released to the public.
17 Black opened a bank account in Dubai in June 2015. The local agent for the LNG tanker, Mario Pullicino, transferred $200,000 just a month later, while in November an Azeri national wires $1.4 million.
17 Black and the mysterious Macbridge area listed as the target clients for Tillgate and Hearnville by December. A leaked email later states that €150,000 will be paid in monthly instalments to both Mizzi and Schembri’s Panama companies.
Plans to open Bahamian accounts were put on hold once the Panama Papers broke.
Daphne would publicly name 17 Black in February 2017, linking the company to Mizzi, Schembri, and an FIAU money laundering report.
Meanwhile, the owner of Macbridge remains at large despite Schembri knowing their identity.