Despite the government’s reluctance to divulge the name of the government advisor who accompanied former Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi on multiple trips to Montenegro, the information was easily available in press reports at the time, if anyone bothered to look.
Media reports in Montenegro documented the visit, even though the media in Malta were never invited on the trip. It was recently established that the Panama Papers Minister visited Montenegro no less than eight times in two years.
Most of these visits were held between 2014 and 2015, when Mizzi was still in charge of Malta’s energy sector.
Press photos of the visit by Montenegrin journalists, already published by The Shift in its investigation, reveal the government advisor was Mizzi’s personal lawyer, Aron Mifsud Bonnici.
Yet, in answers to parliamentary questions on Mizzi’s visits to Montenegro between 2014 and 2016, the name of the ‘advisor’ listed was not divulged despite repeated requests.
Minister Michael Farrugia was clearly reluctant to name the ‘advisor’, despite questions from Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi. In his short and dry reply, Farrugia said he “had nothing more to add”.
Mifsud Bonnici Advocates – Mizzi’s firm of choice as his legal consultants – has been involved in his personal litigations in court, including those related to the Panama Papers, 17 Black and Egrant.
Mifsud Bonnici and his wife, Katrina Borg Cardona, received more than €200,000 worth of direct orders from departments and entities falling under Mizzi’s responsibility. He was also appointed on the Board of several public entities, including Enemalta Plc and Arms Limited.
Mifsud Bonnici also accompanied the former prime minister and Mizzi in a delegation to Singapore to see off the LNG tanker on its way to Malta. Reports quoted an OPM representative saying that Mifsud Bonnici was in Singapore as legal consultant to Mizzi.
After his visits with Mizzi, Mifsud Bonnici then accompanied former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in 2016 to sign the energy cooperation agreement with the Economy Minister of Montenegro.
An investigation by The Shift on the energy deal involving a wind farm in Mozura showed the project was tainted with serious allegations of corruption from the very start. The deal was the focus of Muscat’s last official trip as Prime Minister back in November 2019.
Documents seen by The Shift showed agreements on kickbacks amid allegations of corruption involving top politicians in Montenegro. The investigations uncovered an elaborate set of offshore companies behind this project. This pattern is now synonymous with almost every deal negotiated by Mizzi, Muscat and his former Chief of Staff Keith Schembri.
The three of them were forced to resign amid allegations of links to the suspected mastermind behind the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The cooperation between the two countries was not only limited to the energy sector. When Vitals Global Healthcare was seeking a bailout in Malta, it was pitching the success of the project to politicians in Montenegro. A deal that Steward Healthcare then sealed.