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Action demanded on corrupt Montenegro deal

Disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat closing off the deal in Montenegro with then Energy Minister Joe Mizzi.
Disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat closing off the deal in Montenegro with then Energy Minister Joe Mizzi.

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation has reiterated its call for the Attorney General to initiate a Europol Joint Investigation Team with urgency following fresh revelations by Reuters on the corrupt deal in Montenegro that was revealed by The Shift in March.

“Evidence continues to build that Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination was motivated by her investigation of a kickback scheme involving senior Maltese government officials, Maltese and other State-owned enterprises and private businesses,” the Foundation said in a statement.

Yesterday, Reuters revealed that prime murder suspect Yorgen Fenech made millions of euro through his once-secret company in Dubai – 17 Black – in a corrupt wind energy deal in Montenegro, orchestrated by Malta’s former energy minister Konrad Mizzi and the former prime minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.

When citizens were holding almost daily protests in Malta calling for the resignation of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and those closest to him as links to Caruana Galizia’s assassination started to emerge, Muscat turned his back on their demands and flew to Montenegro to seal the deal – it was his last official trip as Prime Minister in November 2019.

The wind farm project in Mozura involves Montenegro’s government, Malta’s State-owned electricity company Enemalta, China’s Shanghai Electric, and several offshore companies including one owned by Azerbaijani-British national Turab Musayev, who was SOCAR Trading’s representative on the Board of Electrogas.

The web of companies involved in the Mozura wind farm project in Montenegro, including Enemalta. Credit: DAN

“It has never been clearer that Maltese law enforcement, which collapsed under the weight of Fenech, Mizzi and Schembri’s international corruption during Joseph Muscat’s government, needs assistance,” the Foundation said.

The scale and extent of the transnational crime exposed by Caruana Galizia and the journalists continuing her work can only be properly investigated by an international team unrestricted by national borders. “Malta’s European partners are ready and willing to help our country stand up to the violence of this corruption,” the statement concluded.

Matthew Caruana Galizia had told The Shift that Malta needs an umbrella investigation that combines strengths across States and disciplines to effectively investigate corruption and its links to the murder of his mother.

He said such an investigation can only be carried out in the framework of a Joint Investigation Team by Europol.

The Maltese government had shot down a request made by nine international press freedom and human rights NGOs to initiate a Europol Joint Investigation Team, saying Europol had been involved from the start. Matthew Caruana Galizia stressed that the efforts are not the same, explaining that Europol is a political and bureaucratic organisation and not a police force.

Repubblika has backed the call in an appeal to the government, saying “the dirty Montenegro deal” was shocking especially when taking into account the links between this company and those belonging to Mizzi and Schembri.

The web of companies involved in the Mozura wind farm project in Montenegro, including Enemalta. Credit: DAN

“Journalists, with their limited resources, are revealing huge scandals while it is clear that the police chose to look the other way, and even go so far as to cover up for corrupt politicians. It is obvious that a number of high officials are compromised in this matter.”

Repubblika said the Prime Minister must ensure the truth is known. Yet, questions sent to Robert Abela by The Shift three months ago never received a reply.

“Prime Minister, you have the obligation to ensure that this wave of corruption and scandal does not continue to drag the name of our country in the mud. You have the duty to ensure that justice in our country does not discern between anyone, even if the person involved was Prime Minister just before you took on the role.”

Muscat and Mizzi turn to Facebook

Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and disgraced Minister Konrad Mizzi both took to Facebook flagging their innocence, on similar lines used when they denied there was anything wrong with setting up companies in Panama within days of being elected.

Muscat said that the story released on Friday was news to him and insisted he had nothing to hide.

“I have made myself available to questions by journalists”, he wrote adding that he will be readily available to help the police and answer any questions. “I have nothing to hide,” he concluded.

He does. Without a doubt.

And for some reason, his successor has completely ignored questions sent by The Shift on the scandalous revelations on the project in Montenegro.

Meanwhile, Panama Papers Minister Konrad Mizzi contradicted Muscat’s statement that the project was “news to him”.

“The former Prime Minister and I have supported this project because we believed it was beneficial to Enemalta and Malta. That is why I held meetings with officials in Montenegro to set up this project.”

Mizzi flew to Montenegro eight times in two years. The lawyer Mizzi took to seal the deal is his personal lawyer who he engages to defend his case on scandals such as Panama Papers, 17 Black and Egrant.

Mizzi even claimed that at no point during the development of this project were there any suspicions of misconduct by anyone. “I have no association with 17 Black,” he added.

The Shift’s investigations in Montenegro tell a different story, with sources including stakeholders in the deal telling us the project was in fact haunted with allegations of corruption from the start.

The investigation revealed a complex set of offshore companies, synonymous with every deal negotiated by Muscat, Mizzi and Schembri.

Former Energy Minster Konrad Mizzi in Montenegro with Montenegrin Economy Minister Vladimir Kavaric.

Prime Minister Abela, who until three months ago failed to react to findings on corruption in the Montenegro deal, now said that he wants an investigation into the matter as the story has been taken up internationally.

On Mizzi, Abela said that should he be implicated in the case, he must resign. “If it’s the case, then he must either take the decision to resign, or I will take the decision for him as I did in other cases.”

Abela has enough evidence on which to act now.

Muscat had even appointed a close friend with no diplomatic experience, or any related expertise, as ambassador to Montenegro at a critical time for the deal. Karl Izzo, of Dizz Group, justified his appointment based on the fact that he had travelled to the country several times. He appears in photo shoots on the deal but nobody has heard anything else from him since.

(From left) Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, Michelle Muscat, Joseph Muscat, Diane Izzo, Karl Izzo, and Elena Farrugia, the wife of Zammit Lewis.
(From left) Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, Michelle Muscat, Joseph Muscat, Diane Izzo, Karl Izzo, and Elena Farrugia, the wife of Zammit Lewis.

PN leader Adrian Delia, in a press conference late Friday evening asked how much Abela knew about the deal, especially since Abela was Muscat’s consultant. Delia said he expected a reply and immediate action from the government.

And, true to form, Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo posted one of his cryptic messages in which he says something and nothing at all with each scandal that hits the government he continues to defend.

“We are in a political eclipse,” he starts. “The light of Robert Abela’s leadership is being shaded by ugly political and business affairs which occurred between 2013 and 2019.” He said he agreed with the Prime Minister to have those politically responsible for this deal step down and to have the case investigated by the police.

“The fight against corruption has to take place because this is what honesty demands but also because it makes economic sense.” He said that those involved in corruption and money laundering should be in court and pay for their actions.

As the public continues to wait for any kind of serious action to tackle the endless list of scandals haunting the government, in reactions to his post on Facebook citizens reminded him that he was actually part of a government with the power to act.

The Shift will be revealing new details on the Montenegro deal next week.

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