An attempt to grill Paul Apap Bologna on the Electrogas deal at the Public Accounts Committee once again resulted in very few answers being given as the two-hour session was marked by four government MPs and the witness’ lawyer objecting to the questions being asked and accusing Opposition MPs of using partisan tactics.
The committee is discussing the report by the National Audit Office that concluded that “millions were stolen from taxpayers” on the power station deal that was the Labour Party’s main electoral promise in 2013.
At one point, government backbencher Ian Castaldi Paris suggested that the witness may not feel this was the right environment for the witness to answer questions. Apap Bologna promptly addressed the MPs and said: “I am feeling intimidated by all this”.
His lawyer Giannella De Marco insisted on addressing the committee directly, saying the committee’s questions were “abusive” and based on “trickery”. At times, she even answered questions on behalf of the witness despite various warnings given.
Labour MP Manuel Mallia also intervened to insist that the questions being asked were “not fair”, and at one point felt the need to remind the committee that he is “a real lawyer”. Chairman Beppe Fenech Adami replied that Apap Bologna did not need “another lawyer defending him”.
Government MP Alex Muscat went as far as telling Opposition MPs, “altament tigu titnejjku minn kollox” (a vulgar Maltese phrase accusing the other side of lacking respect for anything).
Labour MP and whip Glenn Bedingfield then insisted on reviewing the law and the remit of the committee which he proceeded to read out to all. Apap Bologna and his lawyer were asked to leave the room while the committee discussed the matter.
On Apap Bologna’s return, he (or his lawyer) invoked his right to silence for at least 10 questions put to him on why he resigned as director of Electrogas and GEM on 12 May, and whether this was because he had hidden his ownership of offshore company Kittiwake Ltd from the rest of the shareholders.
In the few questions Apap Bologna did address, he said GEM Holdings had paid Yorgen Fenech €1 million for “his services” to the project. He insisted Electrogas had not made any money from the project as the financial model was based on earnings at the end of the project.
When pressed he mentioned that GEM received success fees while Electrogas received development fees. He could not remember the amount. Yet an investigation by The Shift revealed that shareholders had paid themselves €16 million in “fees” out of loans granted to Electrogas on the back of a last-minute multi-million euro State guarantee.
These “fees” – a form of commission, typically used to pay external advisors as a reward for procuring finance or assisting with a successful transaction – were paid two full years before Electrogas first generated electricity, according to leaked emails seen by The Shift.
Fenech’s New Energy Supply Ltd, a minority shareholder in GEM Holdings, was to receive €2.5 million of these success fees for “interfacing with the authorities” under a side agreement with GEM signed in 2014, The Shift investigation showed.
Before the committee, Apap Bologna admitted to attending the wedding in Baku, Azerbaijan, of Turab Musayev, where Fenech was also present with his wife.
Musayev, the Azerbaijani-British National who was SOCAR Trading’s representative on the Board of Electrogas threatened to take legal action against five newsrooms in Malta, including The Shift, related to their reporting of the wind farm deal in Montenegro and alleged connections between Musayev and Fenech who is charged with complicity in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.