Joseph Muscat advisers dominate board supervising €400m gas pipeline project

Individuals closely connected to disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat have been appointed to the board of a new government entity tasked with overseeing one of the largest-ever investments to be made in Malta’s utilities infrastructure.

An announcement in the Malta Government Gazette detailed the appointment of a new board of directors for Melita Transgas – the State company supervising the €400 million gas pipeline project between Malta and Sicily.

The new Minister for Water and Energy, Naxxar doctor Michael Farrugia, appointed people to key positions who are close to the Muscat administration.

The Board is led by Frans Cassar, who also serves on various fuel-related State entities, including Enemalta following his appointment by former Minister Konrad Mizzi.

The new Melita Transgas board also includes two members of Pawlu Lia’s small law firm. The firm is currently representing Muscat in connection with various probes by the police, including the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galiza.

Lia’s son, Alessandro, has also been appointed to serve on the board of Melita Transgas, while his private legal partner, Phyllis Aquilina, has been tasked to serve as board secretary of the same entity.

Alessandro Lia, a well known name at Labour’s headquarters, is already representing the Party as a member of the Broadcasting Authority, and is a regular recipient of government contracts for legal work, including direct orders. His wife, Nadine, a former person of trust to Minister Chris Cardona, was also appointed Magistrate, on Muscat’s recommendation despite controversy.

Minister Farrugia also appointed Yovanca Barbara to the board. She is a young contributor to the Labour Party’s TV station with no experience in the sector she is meant to supervise.

One of the people appointed to the board is Minister Michael Farrugia’s canvasser, Yovanca Barbara, who is the daughter of Ray Barbara, the private secretary of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

Apart from being Minister Farrugia’s canvasser in the Naxxar district, Barbara is also the daughter of Ray Barbara, the private secretary of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

The appointments to the board have raised eyebrows. Sources close to the government have expressed their concerns, saying that despite Robert Abela officially taking over, the former Prime Minister continues to extend significant influence on major decisions.

Yovanca Barbara campaigning for votes for Labour candidate Michael Farrugia days before the 2017 general election.

This gas pipeline project is the government’s next major project, after deals such as Electrogas and the sale of public hospitals, were proven to be corrupt and are costing taxpayers millions in payments for years to come. The government is refusing to halt these projects, despite the economy taking a blow as a result of the pandemic.

The Melita Transgas board, which is supposed to be steering this massive and extremely complicated project, also includes engineer Ray Azzopardi and Chris Cocker, a former Labour councillor representing the Party in Senglea. Cocker supported Abela in the Labour leadership race.

The Melita Transgas pipeline is approximately 159km long, stretching from Delimara (Malta) to Gela (Italy), that will put an end to Malta’s historic difficulties in obtaining natural gas by connecting the island to the trans-European Natural Gas Network.

The pipeline’s main purpose is to feed natural gas to the Electrogas power station, and is co-financed through millions of EU funds.

                           
                               
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