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MALTATODAY 13 November 2022

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2 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 13 NOVEMBER 2022 NEWS CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 The politician insists that he has pre- sented Commissioner of Police Angelo Gafà with first-hand evidence on grave illegalities in relation to the massive Mar- sa Junction roads project, namely prima- ry sources "that clearly demonstrate that blatant illegalities went on with regards to the multi-million major project in our country." Specifically, there is evidence that the company belonging to Turkish billion- aire Robert Yildirim, was already angling to take over the roadworks weeks in ad- vance before the tender was formally awarded to another Turkish company, Ayhanlar Yol Asfaltlama. The emails from Yildirim were sent many weeks in advance – from March 2018 – of the tender being awarded to Ayhanlar in July, giving the lie to the claim that Yildirim stepped in at a later stage to take over the Marsa Junction project when Ayhanlar could not deliver on its tender. Cassola believes the evidence shows di- vulging of insider information; irregular and opaque behind-the-scenes negotia- tions; fronts – like Ayhanlar – involved in the tendering process; and the strong suspicion of the creaming off of illegal 'commissions' and inexplicable bank payments. These would include a multi-million bribe for Yorgen Fenech – currently be- hind bars charged with commissioning the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia – which was discussed with the Turkish interests aiming for the Marsa roadworks contract. The commissions requested are far higher than the oft-claimed 10%, accord- ing to the evidence presented. "In a country like ours, where it seems that the moral compass has been totally lost, it is imperative that the police con- duct serious investigations in a speedy way, not only to ensure that the authors of all misdemeanours are brought to book but also to show that proper eth- ical behaviour and real justice have not been banished from our country," Casso- la said. "This case is an extremely serious one which can rock the foundations of the nation. I have informed Commissioner Gafà that if I am not called in to explain the contents of my missive by the end of this month, I will resort to further legal action." The major infrastructure project is al- ready facing scrutiny by EU prosecu- tors over suspicions of potential corrup- tion. Times of Malta had revealed that Fenech was promised €2 million in suc- cess fees by Ayhanlar in exchange for using his contacts to help the company secure the Marsa tender. The consultancy fee was to be paid for introducing Ayhanlar to "key stakehold- ers", and seeing their bid through the tendering process. The fee would be split between two of his companies: New En- ergy Supply Limited, a Maltese company used to hold his shares in the Electrogas power station; and Wings Investments, a sister company to his offshore company 17 Black, registered in the United Arab Emirates. Ayhanlar was formally awarded the contract in July 2018, but suddenly finan- cial problems forced the company to file for debt restructuring in Turkey. As a re- sult, works on the government's flagship infrastructure project ground to a halt. Then, the contract was quietly "re- assigned" from Ayhanlar to a compa- ny owned by Robert Yildirim, despite Yildirim not being in the road construc- tion business. Chats in the hands of police inves- tigators, revealed by the Times, show Yildirim refused to pay the fees expect- ed by Fenech, since his deal was with Ayhanlar, who had failed to deliver the project. An e-mail sent by Yildirim to Fenech on 22 January, 2019 hints at potential foul play in the way Ayhanlar won the Marsa contract. "We can be in the front pages of newspapers in Malta. Apparently you might like it. What will you tell the court? Bribing someone but no payment. We didn't say we don't pay you. We need to renegotiate all the terms and conditions. That's all! It's up to you!", Yildirim said in response to the threat of legal action. Former IM boss Fredrick Azzopardi (left) with Robert Yildirim, and former prime minister Joseph Muscat and former roads minister, now foreign minister Ian Borg at the opening of the Marsa Junction project Cassola takes cache of emails and chats to Gafà for investigation Arnold Cassola CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Police officers can only dis- tinguish whether a CBD prod- uct has legal quantities of THC through laboratory testing. But with the availability of such CBD products over the counter and even provided through food-de- livery services, the home affairs ministry was petitioned by the police as to whether these prod- ucts are being regulated. Earlier in May, the cannabis lobby group ReLeaf called for more clarity in the regulation of CBD products, calling out the "draconian approach" to ar- rest law-abiding citizens whose assets were being frozen while investigations are carried out. "Society is now witnessing a new weapon levied against people who consume CBD... the House of Representatives has an oppor- tunity to rectify these human rights abuses and ensure bet- ter implementation of the core principles included in the law." The government on Friday sacked psychologist Mariella Dimech, the first chairperson of the Authority for the Respon- sible Use of Cannabis (ARUC), after only 10 months in the role. ReLeaf yesterday called the ap- pointment of her replacement, the former director of Caritas Leonid McKay, a direct insult to the spirit of the law, and those that had worked hard to combat the stigma and discrimination against cannabis users. ReLeaf said Caritas, a Catholic charity that assists problem drug users, was steadfastly against the 'recreational' use of cannabis. "It was one of the leading or- ganisations raising a demonis- ing crusade against any form of legislative changes empowering responsible cannabis use and shielding people from unneces- sary criminal consequences." "It is very worrying that Caritas has been one of the most vocif- erous organisations advocating to halt the possibility to allow personal growing and the es- tablishment of a communal safe space where to share and con- sume cannabis. It is therefore even more questionable how principles of social equity, social justice, and sustainable develop- ment will be adopted by the new leadership of the ARUC." ReLeaf said it was unclear how Mckay's past work experience at the helm of Caritas, and his personal mor- al and ethical positions on the recreation- al use of drugs will impact the development of the ARUC and cannabis laws. "Could this ap- pointment be a subtle and dip- lomatic attempt to stifle local legislation advancing the rights of people who consume canna- bis? And, moreover, who will be benefiting from all this?" ReLeaf said it wanted a signed declaration by any ARUC chair- persons that would commit them to the principles of harm and risk reduction; clear and transparent information on the licensing process for non-profit cannabis 'clubs'; and a realistic timeline of when the licensing process will be implemented. Explainer CBD (02.% of delta-9-tetrahy- drocannabinol) is allowed within the EU, and has been identified in Maltese leg- islation as being separate from cannabis with a higher THC content of 0.2%. Nonetheless, various people are being arrested and accused of importing cannabis prohibit- ed under the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance Law, even when THC contents are below 0.2%. The prosecutor is completely ignoring amendments enacted in 2021 whereby a definition of cannabis, as pertaining to a reg- ulated substance, is based on the levels of THC (above 0.2% THC) and not on physical appearance or other interpretations. No political direction yet for police over CBD products as arrests continue

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