The Malta Independent 19 April 2019, Friday

Meeting with Yorgen Fenech was not set up by us, Debono, Schiavone say

Albert Galea Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 10:05 Last update: about 10 days ago

PN MPs Kristy Debono and Hermann Schiavone have both told The Malta Independent that they did not set up the meeting with Tumas Group Director and alleged owner of 17 Black Yorgen Fenech themselves.

Answering questions sent by this newsroom, Schiavone said that he had been referred to Yorgen Fenech by another director within Tumas Group, while Debono said that she had not set the meeting up herself and that she had gone to speak to him in his “capacity as official of Tumas Group, in broad daylight and at his official office”.

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Both the MPs had been asked by this newsroom why, out of all the officials at Tumas Group, they had met with Yorgen Fenech knowing full well of the allegations that are currently levelled against him and whether this constituted a lack of political maturity on their part.

Yorgen Fenech’s name was thrust into the limelight mid-way last November, when Reuters and the Times of Malta reported that he was the owner of the Dubai-based company 17 Black, a company which was named as one of two which would pay $2 million into the Panama companies belonging to government minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri.

Besides being the CEO of Tumas Group – Yorgen Fenech is also the director of Electrogas, the firm which operated Malta’s new gas-fired power station.  The power station was a key electoral pledge in Labour’s campaign to take government in 2013 and was under Konrad Mizzi’s remit back when he was Energy Minister.

The Sunday Times of Malta last weekend reported that PN MPs Hermann Schiavone and Kristy Debono, who is also the President of the PN’s General Council, had met with Fenech.  The intention of this was to discuss the potential sponsorship of a conference.

Asked by this newsroom what the conference was to be about, both Debono and Schiavone said that the conference was political in nature but did not elaborate further

Aside from being an MP, Debono is also the president of the general council.  Asked by this newsroom, how she can justify meeting Fenech, especially after PN leader Adrian Delia has spoken so much against 17 Black which Fenech is allegedly the owner of, to the party delegates, Debono reiterated that she had done everything “above board”.

Fenech is a beneficiary of Tumas Group of Companies, and the Party had never issued any directive to cut relations neither with the Group nor its premises or services, Debono said before adding that the party and party representatives still organise events in venues owned by Tumas Group. 

“If such a directive to stop will be come into force, I will abide accordingly, as I always did”, she said.

“Having said that, this has created unnecessary controversy and should have been avoided”, she added.

After replying to The Malta Independent’s questions, Debono issued a statement where described going to the meeting with Fenech as an “error judgement” on her behalf, adding that she “unreservedly” apologises for the “unnecessary controversy”.

Schiavone meanwhile, on Sunday, had posted on Facebook that the Sunday Times’ “attacks aimed at damaging Adrian Delia” had taken a new face, adding that “their new strategy is to attack those close to the leader”.

The MP said that the story of the meeting that he and Debono had with Fenech had been “twisted” so to damage Delia and the PN mere weeks before the upcoming MEP election.

That post however was later removed by Schiavone.  Asked by this newsroom whether he had been instructed by the party to remove the post, Schiavone said that this was not the case and that he had removed the post because of “unbecoming language used by certain people”.

Delia did not know about PN MPs meeting with Fenech

A somewhat evasive Adrian Delia meanwhile told journalists on Monday that he did not know about the meeting that Schiavone and Debono had with Yorgen Fenech, before adding that he was going to speak to both MPs about the situation. 

‘The less said the better’, Debono says about Jason Azzopardi’s statement

Both Schiavone and Debono, when asked, refrained from responding to a statement made by fellow MP Jason Azzopardi.

Azzopardi on Sunday tweeted the following: “How can you even think of being credible on corruption if you, whilst criticising the corruptor, meet him behind the backs of your teammates and the public? Not to mention the possibility of being criminal accomplices” – a clear reference to the news that had been revealed that same morning.

Asked whether they felt that Azzopardi was correct in his criticism, both Schiavone and Debono refrained from giving their views; “unlike him I refrain from commenting on my fellow colleagues”, Schiavone said while Debono said “I will not comment about my colleague Jason Azzopardi.  The less said the better.”

But I assure you, that I never took any money or any other privileges neither on behalf of the party nor privately from Mr. Fenech or anyone connected to his Group of companies”, Debono added.

Any donations I ever received, were for the Party, and always registered according to the Political Parties Financing Laws”, she said.

This newsroom also contacted Azzopardi himself following his statement, asking him why he went public with his criticism as opposed to keeping it within internal party structures, and whether he was going to lodge any complaints within the party.  This newsroom also asked Azzopardi whether he had spoken to Delia about the case or not.

“Rest assured I will be taking up the matter within the Party structures at the first opportunity”, Azzopardi said in reply to the questions.

“Incidentally, the more Labour media and Labour MPs take me to task in a coordinated manner as they have already started doing over this matter, further reinforces the correctness of the initial reaction”, he added.

Asked to elaborate on the final part of his statement, wherein he wrote “Not to mention the possibility of being criminal accomplices”, and whether this was meant to imply that Schiavone and Debono being in cahoots with Fenech, Azzopardi replied that he had said what he had to say.

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