The Malta Independent 8 December 2021, Wednesday

Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, Sherpa call for investigation into French banks on Electrogas

Monday, 5 October 2020, 15:39 Last update: about 2 years ago

On September 30, Sherpa and the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation called on the National Financial Prosecutor's Office in France to open an investigation for money laundering of corruption, complicity, and concealment of stolen goods against four French banks and an investment fund, in connection with a large loan operation for the benefit of Electrogas Malta Limited in the context of the operation of the Maltese gas market.

Sherpa is an association created in 2001 whose mission is to fight new forms of impunity linked to globalisation and to defend communities that are victims of economic crimes.

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The Foundation and Sherpa said that a few months before the conclusion of these loans, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was assassinated in October 2017, had revealed that the contract would be tainted by corruption suspicions.

They said that French banks, through subsidiaries or branches, and an investment fund, granted a loan to Electrogas Malta Limited.

"The investigation by the Malta Police identified Yorgen Fenech as the prime suspect behind the assassination."

"Yorgen Fenech was at the time both director and shareholder of Electrogas and one of the most important Maltese beneficial owners of the company."

 "The Maltese and international press had reported suspicions of corruption surrounding the gas privatisation deal in question. Thanks to the Panama Papers, it had been alleged that Yorgen Fenech had opened a company in Dubai, 17 Black, through which he allegedly offered bribes to Keith Schembri, the former chief of staff of the Prime Minister's office, and to Konrad Mizzi, Minister of Energy at the time, in charge of public-private partnerships."

Despite the existence of these suspicions, "the four French banks, through subsidiaries or branches, as well as the portfolio management company, granted a loan to Electrogas Malta Limited in November 2017."

"These financial intermediaries are, however, subject to AML/CFT obligations, and must, in particular, identify the beneficial owners of the companies with which they do business. They should have known that Electrogas was at least involved in the alleged corruption scandal revealed by the press."

The FinCEN Files have recently shown the systemic aspect of this kind of practice. The leak of more than 2,000 documents from the US Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has shown that financial intermediaries, particularly banks, transfer funds derived from corruption, money laundering or organised crime, even though they have or should have precise knowledge of the illicit origin of these funds.”

“The FinCEN Files, like the Maltese case, demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the banks’ due diligence measures related to the risk of money laundering. Why do banks maintain operations for which they should have strong suspicions of illegality? How many more financial scandals will it take to end these practices?”

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