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MALTATODAY 22 January 2023

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15 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 22 JANUARY 2023 NEWS tion as to when Tancred Tabone would be appointed chairman of Enemalta in 2004; or that clients of the Malta Oil Bunkering Cor- poration, the national oil bun- kering company, would be shift- ing to IBOL – Island Bunker Oils Ltd – a company Tabone and Frank Sammut had formed with the two other co-accused, Francis Portelli and Anthony Cassar. Today that company has been renamed Valletta Bunkers and remains owned by the same people. Farrugia also claimed he paid $400,000 in commissions to Sammut and Tabone up until around 2006, when both men were silent partners in IBOL. While Sammut's contract as chief executive of MOBC was terminated in 2004, after a Cab- inet decision for the MOBC to cease bunkering operations and instead assume the role of an oil storage depot, he became a consultant to Tabone that same year. It was Sammut who allegedly devised a way of paying Farru- gia a 'consultancy commission' that was, in reality, paid back to him: by storing diesel fuel at the MOBC tanks before June 2004, Farrugia received not just a regular commission of $1 per metric tonne of oil he sold for TOTSA, but Frank Sammut al- legedly paid him another dollar in the form of a consultancy fee, so that Farrugia could give him a 50-cent cut. Fair hearing delays But the Enemalta oil scandal's prosecutions of 2013 were im- mediately crippled by court de- lays from the prosecution and the actions of the Attorney Gen- eral, with a majority of court cases achieving "absolutely nothing". It was a fact instantly noted by Malta's Chief Justice. The ineffectiveness of the Mal- tese prosecution in the oil scan- dal after 2013 were placed in a harsh light by the Constitution- al Court, during a fair hearing complaint by former Enemalta functionary Tarcisio Mifsud – also accused, yet acquitted, by Farrugia of having accepted a gift or bribe. In 27 sittings for the compila- tion of evidence against Mifsud, nothing had happened in 15 of these sittings. Mifsud had been a member of the Enemalta fuel procurement committee as the State energy company's financial controller. He was accused along with for- mer Enemalta petroleum chief Alfred Mallia of corruption and trading in influence, largely on claims by Farrugia that he had paid them Lm40,000 (€100,000) in cash for him to win Enemalta tenders for the supply of oil. Mifsud, today 77, had protest- ed the extended duration of the proceedings against him: he sat for 27 sittings between March 2013 and October 2015 in the compilation of evidence against him. The Attorney General then issued the bill of indictment to have Mifsud tried in a criminal court, but instantly delayed the possibility for a summary proce- dure by conditioning the court to hear the testimony of co-ac- cused Alfred Mallia and Tan- cred Tabone. A referral to the Constitution- al court suspended the criminal court hearing, then dragged on for three more years. Despite protests from the Mifsud de- fence, the case dragged on. Mall- ia died in November 2019. "At his advanced age, he has every right to have these proceedings take place within a reasonable period of time, even as one of the co-accused Alfred Mall- ia passed away over the course of these delays. So what is the prosecution waiting for? That all the witnesses die, including Tarcisio Mifsud?" the Chief Jus- tice said, ordering proceedings to be closed within four months. Money laundering case Also pending in court is the money laundering case against Portelli and Cassar: a judge has already ruled that the Attorney General had breached the fun- damental human rights of the two men by delaying their case for over six years and ordered the prosecution to close its ev- idence by the end of 2019. The two men are being charged for their role as directors in Is- land Bunker Oils and its subsid- iaries Eldaren Shipping, Oars- man Maritime, Anchor Oils, FP Holdings, AOH Ltd, Gringrams Holdings, Island Oils Holdings and Anchor Bay Maritime, for having corrupted former Ene- malta chairman Tancred Tab- one and Frank Sammut, the former chief executive of Med- iterranean Offshore Bunkering Company Limited (MOBC), be- tween the years 2002 and 2005. Portelli and Cassar were al- so charged with complicity to trading in influence in public tenders and money laundering. Although proceedings began with great momentum, this soon dwindled and no progress was registered in the case for six whole years. Between 2015 and 2019, 22 sittings were held in which practically nothing was done, after which the prosecu- tion declared in no uncertain terms that it was not going to declare its evidence closed be- fore Frank Sammut testified. The end result was that the case has been stuck for six years. Letters rogatory to the Swiss prosecutors, where the accused used Swiss banks to hide their transactions, had taken an in- explicable 11 months to be sent. George Farrugia Arguably, the villain of the piece in the Enemalta oil scandal emerged as the lucky protagonist: an instant presidential pardon recom- mended by the Gonzi ad- ministration, while his first accusers, his own brothers, were later charged with hav- ing been aware that he was offering kickbacks and bribes in return for being awarded oil contracts. Brothers Anto- nio, Gaetano Farrugia, Ray- mond,Emmanuel and Salva- tore pleaded not guilty to the charges. Tancred Tabone, Anthony Cassar, Francis Portelli Tabone, although still ac- cused in the eyes of the law, runs his profitable retail busi- ness, Forestals; while Island Bunker Oils was renamed Valletta Bunkers and is now run by relatives of the Tab- one-Portelli-Cassar families. Their interests are further consolidated in the compa- ny Valletta Petroleum Hold- ings, whose shares are held by Tabone's Alta Investments, Portelli's Virtu Holdings, and Cassar's Cassar Marine Ser- vices. Francis Portelli, who along with Cassar still faces charg- es of bribery, continued un- hindered in business as 50% shareholder of Virtu Hold- ings, with the company is- suing a €25 million bond in 2017. At the time the compa- ny's prospectus had specified that the allegations against Portelli relate "to the set-up of IBOL at the time of the privatisation of Mediterra- nean Offshore Bunkering Co Ltd (MOBC). It has been al- leged that the simultaneous involvement of two other persons (not Portelli) in both companies gave rise to… brib- ery and malversation, and… money laundering offences." Portelli and Cassar are charged with corruption and money laundering through their dealings in IBOL in a separate case to the oil cor- ruption scandal. Cassar was photographed alongside the Pakistani busi- nessman Shaukat Ali during a meeting with former Presi- dent George Abela, sometime before 2014. Nationalist minister Austin Gatt The former minister Austin Gatt had sued MaltaToday for libel after reporting that George Farrugia had met the Nationalist minister over oil supplies to Enemalta. Gatt denied ever meeting Farrugia to discuss oil procurements, but emails MaltaToday had in its possession showed that Farrugia had met with Gatt – without inferring that the minister aware of or involved in any illicit deals. Where are they now? George Farrugia: Arguably, the villain of the piece in the Enemalta oil scandal emerged as the lucky protagonist: an instant presidential pardon Still in business: Tancred Tabone (top), and Francis Portelli (centre photo, left) and Anthony Cassar (centre photo, right) and Frank Portelli (below) are all facing charges in connection with the Enemalta oil scandal, yet the wheels of justce turn excruciatingly slow

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