17 Black: some real answers from the Prime Minister would be appropriate right about now
So Prime Minister Joseph Muscat would prefer to await the conclusion of ongoing inquiries and investigations before lifting a finger to take action against Minister Konrad Mizzi and his chief of staff Keith Schembri.
This even when every political party and large swathes of the public are calling for Mizzi and Schembri to be sacked or, at the very least, suspended from government duties until those investigations and inquiries are concluded.
Mr Prime Minister, you can try to pull the other one but neither has bells on them. You can also try to pull the wool but even wool has a limited shelf life until is wears thin enough to become transparent.
And that is exactly what is happening with the latest revelations on how Mizzi and Schembri apparently tried, or managed, to skim off the top of the Delimara power station deal. There is so much that is rotten about that deal that, even though the power station is now running on natural gas, it nevertheless stinks to high heaven.
So, Mr Prime Minister, which investigations and inquiries are you speaking of here which need to be concluded before deciding on what action to take?
Are you referring to the Panama Papers magisterial inquiry that you and your fellow accused have jumped through hoops to avoid and delay at all costs, even though you had pledged to cooperate fully?
Or are you speaking about the investigations undertaken by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit that were actually concluded but which no successive police commissioner would dare touch with a barge pole?
It is only a matter of time before the chickens begin coming home to roost in the wake of the many corruption and money laundering scandals that are plaguing the country and its reputation. And the authorities’ chronic inaction over them may very well have dire consequences for the country.
The fact of the matter is that this has all happened be- cause of an institutional failure to investigate certain people who are deemed to be untouchables. And these untouchables are slowly but very surely rendering Malta itself untouchable.
In the light of the new facts that have surfaced over the last two days, the Prime Minister must explain publicly and without delay the following questions, which we have been asking for years now:
• Who owns 17 Black? Wait, we now know the answer to that one.
• Why did your government negotiate an 18-year power and gas purchase agreement worth billions of euros in turnover with a consortium that: (i) included Socar and Siemens which are both known for their past involvement in ethically questionable practices; and (ii) whose lead developer was Gasol, a tiny company without a credible track record ultimately controlled by a brass-plate company registered at Mossack Fonseca’s offices in the secretive jurisdiction of the Seychelles.
• Did your people do any due diligence on the directors of Gasol when you were negotiating the deal in 2012? What were the results?
• Why did those acting for your then energy minister and chief of staff register Panamanian companies with Mossack Fonseca in Panama at the same time as the 18year gas and power agreement bidding process entered the short-listing phase, which included the consortium led by Gasol, a company ultimately controlled from a Mossack Fonseca address in the Seychelles?
• What due diligence did your government carry out on the Seychelles-controlled Gasol, particularly about the full identification of its beneficial owners in order to rule out that they did not include, directly or through other shell companies: politicians, corrupt persons, money launderers, dictators, human rights violators, criminals, persons barred from public office, co-tenderers or collusive tenderers. This due diligence should be published forthwith.
• Did this due diligence include the former Gasol director that we report in today’s issue, who has been sentenced to 16 years concurrent prison time in the UK for serious fraud and money laundering?
• Who were the beneficial owners of Gasol in the Seychelles while they had an interest in the 18-year power and gas agreement, what were their competencies and past achievements in power and gas projects and their global political and business connections? If you carried out any kind of due diligence on a project of this magnitude that was of national, and electoral, importance, you should know the answer to that one.
• Who were the individuals representing Gasol at the negotiating table with your administration in waiting, and where are they now?
• What was the exact role of Gasol in the consortium and in the project, considering that it exited the project as soon as the deal and its financing were fixed, and very specifically in the same week in July 2015 in which the financing package was finalised and signed – including the bank loan to the consortium of €450 million and the taxpayers’ guarantee to the banks of €360 million?
• What liquidation Gasol did pocket for the disposal of its 30 per cent share upon exit from the taxpayer-guaranteed project on 22 July 2015, and on what basis was that liquidation computed?
• Who were the shareholders holding an interest of five per cent or more in the share capital of Gasol at the date of its exit from the taxpayer-guaranteed project?
• Can you explain the transactions which occurred on 22 July 2015 – the transfer of Konrad Mizzi’s Panamanian company to his New Zealand trust on same day that Gasol sold shares to Electrogas – and which are traceable to entities that are ultimately controlled at registered offices of the same international legal network of Mossack Fonseca?