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MALTATODAY 22 January 2023

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14 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 22 JANUARY 2023 NEWS TRUTH IS OF NO COLOUR WWW.MALTATODAY.COM.MT SUNDAY • 15 JANUARY 2023 • ISSUE 1211 • PUBLISHED EVERY WEDNESDAY AND SUNDAY maltatoday → direct Bespoke investment service tailored to your specific needs. discretionary portfolio management and receive a top-up of up to €200* Apply now 2557 4400 MeDirect Bank (Malta) plc, company registration number C34125, is licensed to undertake the business of banking in terms of the Banking Act (Cap. 371) and investment services under the Investment Services Act (Cap. 370). PAGE 4 PAGE 4 How a vulnerable family was allowed to be overpowered by a stranger PAGES 2-3 The Devil went down to Marsaskala €1.95 Is the Orlandi case an existential threat for the Holy See? PAGES 10-11 Catholics on Vatican Girl BONANNO MATTHEW VELLA THE Maltese govern- ment is bracing itself for the court judgement that could spell out an unprecedented €100 mil- lion penalty in favour of the American healthcare giant Steward, should the controversial hospi- tals privatisation deal be rescinded. There is trepidation at the top echelons of Rob- ert Abela's administra- tion, as the outcome of a court case filed by the Nationalist MP Adrian Delia for the rescission of the former Vitals hos- pitals privatisation could open up the government to a new €100 million penalty, but even some- thing more controver- sial: a criminal investi- gation into the alleged corruption surrounding the VGH deal, touching upon the former Muscat administration. Labour braced for Steward fall-out over penalty, fraud investigation JAMES DEBONO THE Planning Authority has requested the Gozo Ministry to prepare a Social Impact As- sessment (SIA) on the impact of the proposed airstrip on nearby communities in Xewkija and Ghajnsielem. This was confirmed by a PA spokesperson when asked by MaltaToday whether such a study has been requested, in view of the social impact such a large-scale project has on neighbouring community. Social impact assessments not only assess the concerns of residents living next to large scale projects but also include enforceable measures to ad- dress these con- cerns. PA wants social impact of Gozo airstrip on residents Unseasonably warm winter Pomegranates in January. But the effects of man-made climate change are not all sweet, as farmers witness the uncharacteristic changes of the weather PAGES 8-9 ERA exempted project from EIA but PA wants social impact study on residents and other studies lighter 'computer INTERVIEW MT2 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 15 JANUARY 2023 COMMENT Fair value for farmers' land MIGUEL AZZOPARDI PAGE 11 The Skinny Malta, shrunk down MICHAEL FALZON Rivers of tears PAGE 7 SAVIOUR BALZAN The nanny state for you PAGE 5 EDITORIAL Back to censorship, under 'progressive' Labour PAGE 2 JOSANNE CASAR Singing people's praises after they've gone PAGE 6 We cannot let speculative interests jeopardise the farming sector by turning agricultural land into something to be bought and sold to the highest bidder What are we skinning? The boys in blue feeling obligated to come after satirist Matthew Bonanno (he of 'Bis-Serjeta') for his suggestion that the evangelical religious group River of Love be relocated to Bugibba so as to be carpet-bombed in a less picturesque location than its former HQ in Zebbug. Why are we skinning it? Because it's an absurd legal non-starter, for one thing. More than that though, it's because a case like this ends up with us having to go through the whole 'what am even sat- ire?'; 'what be hate speech' rigmarole all over again... Why do people still trip up over words whose definition can easily be found by flipping through the nearest dictionary... online, too! I think it has something to do with how our brains are generally a mess that will prevent us from taking a linear route to 'clean' knowledge at every opportunity. Yeah. That, and the ten- dency of emotion to trump (!) all rational discourse either way, solidifying pre-existing prejudices all the while. But I thought we were done with this whole censorship lark. We are, in some ways. Technically speaking, Bonanno's fallen foul of the 'misuse of elec- tronic equipment' law, and for 'hate speech'... But hate speech should be actionable in some way. Hey, who are we to say that Bonanno can't have a flo- tilla of fighter jets stashed away somewhere? The police certainly seemed confident about it. 'Misplaced efficiency' should be carved onto the sleeves of their new- ly-minted uniforms. Though the Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms set up a press conference to announce that the fight against gay conversion therapy will be strength- ened even further... And we all know which group gay conversion therapy is associated with... A total coincidence, though, right? Or a mas- terstroke move by a gov- ernment that's become an expert in public relations saves. Do say: "While online hate speech is indeed a serious matter – and not just ironically serious like the Bis-Serjeta' monicker will have you believe – a clear distinction needs to be made between hate speech which signals and real and present danger and delib- erately inflated comments made with satirical intent and with no basis in the real world out there." Don't say: "The suggestion that Bugibba be razed to the ground is a serious offence indeed, as that would result in the con- tainment field that keeps all the British tourists and expats in to burst, unleash- ing them on an unsuspect- ing island ill-equipped to deal with their misplaced colonial superiority com- plex and irrational urge for fried fatty foods, 24/7." No 174 – Carpets over Bugibba maltatoday | SUNDAY • 22 JANUARY 2023 CLASSIFIEDS & COMMERCIALS ARTS • TV • WHAT'S ON Lupu/Nagħġa cast on Simone Spiteri's latest show PHOTO JAMES BIANCHI maltatoday Get the critical perspective on politics, culture and society Be the first to enjoy our print newspaper with a subscription When you need to decode what politicians are saying, when you want to understand why Malta's crazy construction industry is impacting upon your life, when you need to step out of the social media and understand the world from a different perspective, our journalists and columnists will provide you with expert reporting, analysis and commentary. Order now at https;// MATTHEW VELLA TEN years ago, MaltaToday published what had arguably been the kind of exclusive evi- dence that had been languish- ing in a cache of documents presented in an unknown court case between feuding siblings. The crucial piece of evidence had been an invoice, made out to Dutch commodities giant Trafigura, by a former Enemal- ta consultant – Frank Sammut – for a 'consultancy fee' on the supply of oil to Enemalta. The money was requested to be paid into a Swiss bank account for a company that Sammut owned, in Gibraltar. That 2004 document – mir- roring in shape and form the kind of scandal that would lat- er be magnified in the scale of the Panama Papers of 2016 – confirmed the long-held spec- ulation of kickbacks paid for purchases of oil for the state's energy corporation. The Enemalta oil scandal, as it became known, rocked the island right at the start of the 2013 elections. A criminal po- lice investigation was launched, with seven persons arraigned, but one man, George Farrugia – perhaps the chief instigator – was immediately granted a pres- idential pardon to turn State's evidence. With countless hours held inside the public accounts committee on Enemalta's fuel procurement scandal, Malta to- day remain none the wiser as to the scale of kickbacks that went on inside the national energy corporation or how this system could have gone on for years without anyone inside the then Nationalist administration ever suspecting anything. As pardoned oil trader George Farrugia, one sibling from the John's Group family being sued by his brothers over his fraud- ulent practices, would later de- clare, the illegal commissions he started paying in 1999 almost set in motion a chain of kick- backs he would continue paying up until at least 2006. Farrugia said he had paid these bribes to various Enemalta officials, although not all prosecutions have been successful, especially against minor players. The main accusations, against former En- emalta chairman Tancred Tab- one, his consultant Frank Sam- mut, and oil bunkering partners Francis Portelli and Anthony Cassar, remain pending – ten years on. The PAC hearings revealed the common practice of dining between top Enemalta manage- ment and the lubricants trader George Farrugia, who ensure that fuel he imported from TOTSA and Trafigura would be purchased by Enemalta thanks to a system of timely bribes for the top men – even when he was submitting the most favourable offers on oil prices anyway. "I didn't pay the kickbacks to win the tenders but because the ten- ders were won... one either had to pay or you don't work at all," Farrugia told the PAC. Under Tancred Tabone's chairmanship (Tabone is the owner of the Forestals company and was a former Chamber of Commerce president appoint- ed by the Nationalist adminis- tration to Enemalta chairman) won five out of 16 contracts. The payments Farrugia – as a representative of the John's Group subsidiary business Powerplan Ltd – had to make simply to be "allowed to work", were unknown to the rest of the shareholder-directors, his own brothers – as they claim. His counter-claim has now led to their prosecution in court by police. Farrugia not only cut in Ene- malta's top people in his profits; but his brothers accused him of funnelling Powerplan income into his secret bank account, representing a company called Aikon Ltd. In 2010 they sued him over €40 million in alleged 'commissions' he took from Powerplan. The cache of emails present- ed in that case revealed various aspects of the relations between businessmen and politicians: one of them was the gift, a sou- venir Tal-Lira clock construct- ed by Farrugia's own wife, for finance minister Tonio Fenech, of negligible value; emails from Powerplan chairman Tony Debono to Lawrence Gonzi and other Nationalist Party officials apparently suggested ways of assisting the PN, always hoping to curry influence with the pow- ers that be; Farrugia even trans- mitted some complaint from Swiss acquaintances travelling in Malta to Gonzi; and he held numerous meetings with former minister Austin Gatt, although never about fuel procurement, he claims – but he did donate €2,000 from John's Group for Gatt's 2008 electoral campaign (Gatt denies recalling the dona- tion). It all sounds petty when com- pared to the systematic corrup- tion that the Panama Papers would later reveal – a concerted plan to connect major govern- ment projects to a chosen mag- nate, Yorgen Fenech, and his secret business partner, Keith Schembri, the chief of staff to prime minister Joseph Muscat. But perhaps, the Enemalta oil scandal was scratching the sur- face of Malta's 'bribesville' es- tablishment. For example, Farrugia had de- clared being privy to informa- Ten years on: no justice served on Enemalta oil scandal

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