The owner of the elusive Dubai-registered company 17 Black has been identified as Yorgen Fenech who is a shareholder and director in Electrogas – the company that built and runs the new Delimara power plant – according to a joint investigation by Reuters and The Times of Malta.
17 Black was identified as one of two sources of income for the Panama companies owned by minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.
Fenech’s Tumas Group is one of the partners in the gas-fired power station which was Labour’s main electoral promise in 2013. Fenech is a director and co-owner of the business group that was granted the right by the Labour government to build a €450 million gas power station. The power station is owned by a consortium called Electrogas which includes local business groups Tumas Group, Gasan Group and CP Holdings.
The foreign shareholders are Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR, and the German company Siemens.
On Friday, Reuters reported that two people familiar with the subject in Malta said a report by the FIAU – Malta’s anti-money laundering watchdog – had identified Fenech as the owner of 17 Black.
A third person familiar with the subject in the United Arab Emirates said account records at a bank in Dubai identified Fenech as the owner of 17 Black, Reuters reported.
The report added that “Reuters last month reviewed UAE banking correspondence that described Fenech as the owner and signatory of a 17 Black account at Noor Bank in Dubai.”
When asked to comment, Fenech declined to say whether he owns 17 Black. On their part, Schembri and Mizzi both told Reuters in October they had no knowledge of any connection between 17 Black and Fenech, or of any plan to receive payments connected to Fenech or the energy project. Fenech also denied making any plans to pay any politician or any person or entity connected to them.
According to a set of emails in the Panama Papers, the offshore firms owned by former energy minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri were planning to have two Dubai firms, 17 Black and Macbridge, become “main target clients”.
Schembri and Mizzi were planning to receive $150,000 per month into their once-secret Panamanian companies from this 17 Black.
The team behind the Daphne Project found that the two Dubai companies received unexplained payments of US$ 1.6 million from an offshore company in the Seychelles. The transactions were flagged by the US financial intelligence unit as suspicious of money laundering.
While Mizzi claimed all along that the firms were not planning to do any business, Schembri had earlier confirmed that 17 Black and MacBridge were discussed as potential clients of the firms.
Former PN leader Simon Busuttil tweeted that he never had any doubt that the power station project was mired in corruption.
FINALLY, TRUTH: I never had any doubt that the power station project was mired in #corruption. It was just a matter of time for #truth to out. @JosephMuscat_JM, @KonradMizzi and @keithaschembri must now face #justice. #MonumentOfCorruption https://t.co/RIQkLV0vNX
— Simon Busuttil (@SimonBusuttil) November 9, 2018
Reuters reported that the ownership of the company is significant because an email written in December 2015 by Nexia BT shows that the Panama companies owned by Mizzi and Schembri stood to receive payments from 17 Black for services that were unspecified.
“The email said the Panama companies expected 17 Black to be a “main target client,” with payments of up to $2 million expected within a year. The email made no reference to the gas power station energy scheme and there is no evidence the payments went ahead.”
Reuters added that it remains unclear why the Panama companies owned by Mizzi and Schembri expected to receive money from 17 Black.
Earlier this year, Magistrate Francesco Depasquale ordered an inquiry and concluded that Mizzi, Schembri and Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna and Karl Cini have a case to answer on allegations of bribery, attempted money laundering and false declarations to public authorities in relation to 17 Black.