The Malta Independent 9 December 2018, Sunday

Electrogas consortium partner monitoring situation ‘very closely’; distances itself from 17 Black

Kevin Schembri Orland Wednesday, 14 November 2018, 10:14 Last update: about 25 days ago

Electrogas consortium partner Siemens, a German company, told The Malta Independent that is monitoring the situation in Malta “very closely” after recent revelations with regard to a company named 17 Black.

It was recently uncovered that director and CEO of the Tumas Group Yorgen Fenech, who is a director and shareholder in the Electrogas consortium, is the owner of 17 Black. Electrogas runs the gas power station.

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17 Black was listed as the 'Main Client' and 'Possible Payer/Sender' of Tillgate and Hearnville, the offshore Panamanian companies owned by OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, leaked emails obtained by German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung, and published by the Daphne Project, showed. In reaction to the news story, Schembri had said that 17 Black never became clients of his business group.  Mizzi had also said that there is no connection, direct or otherwise, between him, his company or trust, and any entity called 17 Black.

The Electrogas consortium is made up of Siemens, SOCAR (an Azerbaijan state-owned company), and a collection of Maltese investors known as GEM Holdings, of which Tumas Holdings forms part.

Siemens, in response to the many questions sent, responded with one short paragraph. “Regarding your questions I can tell you that Siemens has no business relationship with a company called ‘17 Black Ltd.’ Siemens is monitoring the situation in Malta very closely. Please understand that we currently do not want to comment on the topic any further.”

This newsroom did not ask whether Siemens has a business relationship with 17 Black, however the company offered this answer, indicating that it wants to distance itself from the current situation.

This newsroom asked, among other things, whether Siemens is concerned about the situation; Whether they will welcome the MEP’s call for an investigation, and if they would cooperate with such an investigation; Whether a serious company like Siemens is comfortable forming part of a consortium which is under the international microscope for serious allegations; Whether they are conducting their own internal inquiry into what is happening within the consortium; if they are reconsidering their position in the consortium; Whether they are concerned about any potential damage to Siemen’s reputation; whether they knew that Yorgen Fenech owned a company called 17 Black, amongst others.

The recent 17 Black revelations have, yet again, seen Malta’s name hit international headlines in a negative light. A parliamentary debate was held on the issue, with Minister Konrad Mizzi not participating, instead leaving other government Ministers and PL MPs to argue in his stead.

PN MEP David Casa, as a result of the latest revelations, wrote to German Secretary of State Stephan Mayer to "immediately launch an investigation in terms of the German Criminal Code" given the German company's involvement in the ElectroGas consortium.

Yesterday, MEP Sophia in ‘t Veld, the Chair of the EP’s Rule of Law Monitoring Group, called for a thorough investigation of the latest revelations on 17 Black. “These new revelations are extremely worrying and should trigger an immediate and thorough investigation by the Maltese authorities. Given the possible relevance for the ongoing investigation into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, we expect Europol to be fully involved in the follow up. In that light, we also sent a letter to Europol requesting their involvement and assessment of the current situation,” said the Dutch MEP.

Reuters and Times of Malta had broken the recent revelations on 17 Black regarding Yorgen Fenech on Friday. Reuters had reported that it reviewed UAE banking correspondence “that summarized 17 Black’s banking activity in Dubai. The documents stated that when 17 Black opened an account in June 2015 at Noor Bank in Dubai, the company declared it was 100 percent owned by a Maltese citizen called Yorgen Fenech. The correspondence also said Fenech is the account’s sole signatory.”

Reuters also reported that two people familiar with the subject in Malta said a report by Malta’s anti-money laundering watchdog had identified Yorgen Fenech as the owner of 17 Black. A third person familiar with the subject in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said account records at a bank in Dubai identified Fenech as the owner of 17 Black. They also reported that when asked to comment, Fenech declined to say whether he owns the company.

This revelation has renewed calls for the immediate removal of OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, as well as warnings from the Opposition that if not removed, the fallout would rest on the Prime Minister’s shoulders.

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia himself had said that there is no longer any other road for the Prime Minister to take, and political responsibility must be carried. If Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri do not resign, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat must carry responsibility himself, Delia said.

 

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