Azerbaijan’s State oil company didn’t want to share banking info with Latvian police in case Malta found out about it.
SOCAR objected to Latvia’s attempts to obtain information on transactions that Dubai-based SOCAR Trading DMCC made through a Swiss bank in 2017 because “in future Malta will open proceedings against it for these facts”.
Not ‘may open proceedings’ but “will”.
They have more faith in the Maltese authorities than we do, but they’re clearly intent on covering their arses for something. We may soon find out what it is.
The investigation was triggered by a 31-page Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) filed by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation with Latvia’s Office for the Prevention of Laundering of Proceeds Derived from Criminal Activity.
Police have been trying to get their hands on this data since January 2020. This week, a Federal Court in Switzerland finally overruled SOCAR’s attempts to block or otherwise limit the release of evidence relating to the suspicious transfers.
Why should it matter to you?
Latvian police are targeting transactions related to the origin of €28 million that flowed from SOCAR to two unidentified Dubai-based limited partnerships.
Those transfers were linked to the outrageous Security of Supply Agreement Konrad Mizzi signed in your name.
You know, the one that obligated Electrogas to buy liquified natural gas (LNG) from SOCAR at inflated prices for a period of 18 years. Azerbaijan doesn’t even produce LNG. They buy it from Shell and re-sell it to you, with a tidy mark-up for…. we may soon find out.
Two unidentified limited partnerships based in Dubai, eh…?
You’ll recall that a Latvian bank called ABLV was used to transfer millions of euros to Yorgen Fenech’s 17 Black and to Macbridge, which we now know was owned by Shanghai Electric negotiator Chen Cheng.
The secret Dubai-based companies are believed to have been set up to funnel kickbacks to Mizzi and Keith Schembri.
And what of Egrant, the third Panama company set up at the same time as Mizzi’s and Schembri’s? Was the same deal made with it? That remains to be seen.
ABLV Bank was shut down in 2018 after pressure from the US, which described the bank as ‘a laundromat’ that moved several hundred million euro as part of the Russian Troika Laundromat and Azerbaijani Laundromat schemes.
Oddly enough, the Latvian bank was also pimping Maltese — EU — passports through Malta’s controversial cash-for-passports programme.
As for the dodgy Security of Supply Agreement, we know from leaked Electrogas emails that Malta went to great lengths to hide it from the European Commission. They were worried it would be flagged as unlawful State Aid, which would have left the government holding the bag for that €450 million bridge loan they guaranteed to keep Yorgen Fenech’s project from teetering into insolvency.
The document was so sensitive that Fenech and friends even tried to stop other Electrogas lenders from seeing it.
Internal emails show the owner of 17 Black insisting that the agreement not be shared with anyone — including the banks they hoped would put up more cash: “The government (GOM) said that under no circumstances it is true (sic) that the government would allow the LNG Security of Supply Agreement (SSA) to be divulged to the lenders”.
One email from a London based lawyer for the other banks revealed how frustrated they were by this secrecy: “Our concern, which we have expressed to [Electrogas] on several occasions, is that the LNG [Security of Supply agreement] may contain elements of State Aid which should have been disclosed to the Commission”.
They did finally get access to the agreement. But they had to fly to Geneva for a private viewing, with government and SOCAR representatives present, I guess so they couldn’t make copies or take photos.
It should come as no surprise that the lawyers insisted the dodgy agreement be terminated before those other banks would lend Electrogas any more cash. With that roadblock out of the way, the European Commission went on to approve State Aid to Mizzi and Fenech’s pet project without ever finding out about the secret side agreement they’d signed in your name.
If Electrogas had gone under instead — if Daphne Caruana Galizia had scared off those outside investors by exposing the company’s dire financial situation, with government collusion and kickbacks at every stage of the deal — then Malta would have been on the hook for the astronomical debts of a private company.
But the stories she was working on remained unpublished. The refinancing was successfully concluded just weeks after the journalist who was in the midst of investigating it was killed with a massive car bomb.
Three years later, Yorgen Fenech is cooling his overpriced heels in Corradino, accused of financing her murder. As for Mizzi’s agreement with SOCAR, it still hasn’t been published or shared with the rest of parliament. FIAU investigators questioned why Mizzi signed it in the first place when the gas supply from SOCAR was being bought by the private operators of Electrogas.
Will it finally see the light of day as a result of this new request?
Why does it take action by foreign police and foreign courts for Maltese citizens to learn what should have been public all along?
What else will SOCAR’s Swiss bank transfers reveal?
More than one person will be washing their sheets after yesterday’s news from Geneva. You can be sure there are some serious night sweats happening in Malta.