It pays to be friends with Konrad Mizzi.
I wonder if David Galea ever imagined the lanky kid he hung out with on the playground would toss him over €1 million in public funds, dished out through discrete direct orders?
The remarkably successful consultant told us via a paid advertorial that he set up Beat Ltd “in response… [to] the many projects that were being implemented around the island”.
What incredible foresight he had to found his new venture in 2013 — around the same time his friend Konrad was quietly setting up a company in Panama.
Galea’s ‘gamble’ quickly paid off.
Beat Ltd won its first direct order before the ink had even dried on its articles of incorporation: a tidy €64,000 from the Tourism Ministry to act as project manager for the controversial ITS move out to the boonies in Smart City.
As luck would have it, Beat shareholder Philip Tabone’s son Anthony — Malta’s Consul General to Dubai — just happened to be CEO of Smart City at the time.
It’s one coincidence after another. I guess some people are just born under a lucky star.
That first direct order was a pittance compared to what came his way next.
Galea was selected — no doubt amid cutthroat competition — to act as programme director for Malta’s new power station project. He would later sit on one of the adjudication committees that decided the bid submitted by Electrogas was the best choice for Malta.
Mizzi sure picked the right man for the job.
Galea told the Public Accounts Committee this week that he’d actually been asked to draw up a few energy proposals for Labour around November 2012 — four months before Joseph Muscat came to power.
Now, I get it. That sounds a lot like the deal was pre-planned. To use a rather ugly word, it reeks of collusion.
But all parties who benefited from this deal want you to know it wasn’t the case.
Electrogas shareholder Paul Apap Bologna testified under oath that he had never discussed a gas power station project before the 2013 general election.
The Gasan Group agreed.
“Mr Gasan declares unequivocally that this is absolutely false and never happened,” they said in a statement. “No such meetings were ever planned or held by Joe Gasan at any time. This assertion is a complete fabrication”.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “They would say that, wouldn’t they?”
Rest assured that Electrogas anticipated your doubts and did everything it could to dispel them.
They paid Galea’s Beat Ltd €6,000 to review a critical NAO report that looked into whether or not shenanigans were involved in awarding the power station contract to Electrogas.
And David Galea would know. He was involved in awarding the power station contract to Electrogas.
How’s that for Maltese efficiency? Galea was hired by a board he’s a member of to conduct a review of that very same board. In other words, he was evaluating his own decisions.
‘I, David Galea, swear that David Galea did a remarkably good and highly ethical job. Sincerely yours, David Galea.’
The shining star of the consulting world would go on to receive many more direct orders from his friend Konrad Mizzi’s Projects Malta.
Galea offered his expertise on everything from electricity generation, gas prices, engineering, project management, ticketing systems, oil and gas projects, hospitals, immigration, films and blockchain.
This would normally require a range of specialists, but Galea’s a bit of a Renaissance Man. Malta’s very own Leonardo da Vinci.
“I give advice to whoever asks for it,” he said. And thank Konrad for that!
But don’t be fooled into thinking Konrad has only one friend.
Konrad also gave a nice little €30,000 direct order to his former aide Alex Cutajar to “enhance Project Plus’s image and strategy”.
Some €299,100 in direct orders went to Mifsud Bonnici Advocates, run by Konrad’s personal lawyer.
And direct orders worth hundreds of thousands went to his Panama pals at NexiaBT via the Energy Ministry and Projects Malta.
All for being connected to Malta’s most popular Muscat-era minister.
And let’s not forget his estranged spouse’s lucrative vanishing act: €13,000 per month plus a free residence, car and driver and paid private education for her two kids in exchange for unspecified duties running a consulate no one could find in Shanghai. The office didn’t have an official phone number, and the address looked suspiciously like a private apartment in a rather posh part of town.
“Judge me by what I do for you,” she said. And we have.
Imagine how much taxpayers saved by getting rid of the Kon Man. But hold on…
The benefits gained from being his friend didn’t end when he was given the bum’s rush from Cabinet. No, those perks just happened to be post-ministerial.
The clever technocrat made sure the contracts he signed on the people’s behalf would keep paying out no matter which way the dice fell when he left office.
Are you tired of paying Azerbaijan twice the market price for gas that Aliyev’s kingdom doesn’t even produce? Do you want to cancel an obviously corrupt deal?
Okay, but you’d better be prepared to cough up.
The Auditor General’s been going through the Electrogas contract with a comb fine enough to find even Joseph Muscat’s hair, and he’s got some bad news for you.
Terminating the deal will cost you at least €417 million thanks to liability clauses that leave the taxpayer holding the bag for the company’s loans.
And that’s just for starters. He hasn’t tallied up the other three liability clauses that cover redundancy payments for Electrogas employees, payments to sub-contractors, and more.
So yeah, you can cancel the gift that keeps giving to 17 Black and friends — but the cost might be more than you’re willing to lose.
Shades of VGH, that Konrad sure is a clever fellow!
Oh, by the way, he took care of his friends in the hospitals deal, too. It’ll cost you €100 million to get St Luke’s, Karen Grech and Gozo Hospital back.
Compensate the crooks with one lump sum, or leave them and their lucrative supply agreements alone. Either way, you pay.
Now, there are some who might say Konrad Mizzi was astonishingly corrupt. That he and his boss took the Maltese citizens for a very disorienting ride while picking their pockets and stealing their future.
The former Minister for Dodgy Deals was even interrogated by the police’s Financial Crime Investigation Department again this week, but we’ve seen it all before.
It’s my theory that someone at Police HQ sets a pop up reminder on their desktop to call in the usual suspects.
‘Time to question Mizzi again. Haul ‘em in for coffee, boys… but ask nicely.’
But all that questioning is just a lot of window dressing. Arrests, charges and convictions are what matter.
Mizzi and his friends win again — and you lose.