A €247,908 tender was awarded to Princess Operations Ltd, a company that is solely owned by Christian Borg, one of a gang of car dealers charged by the police over a botched kidnapping on 21 January known to have close links to the Labour Party, as well as being a former property deal connection of Prime Minister Robert Abela’s.
Borg is alleged to be involved in drug smuggling and money laundering, including businesses acting as fronts. Investigations by the police are said to be ongoing.
The tender, issued through the government’s Department of Contracts on behalf of Transport Malta, was a call for the leasing of a total of 38 low-emission vehicles, one cargo van and two ‘self-drive vans’ from Princess Operations Ltd.
Princess Operations Ltd was listed as the recommended tenderer out of a total of 14 bidders on 10 June of last year. The recommendation was made by the General Contracts Committee, with the Director General of the Department of Contracts, Anthony Cachia, agreeing with the recommendation.
According to documents seen by The Shift, the stated reason for the Department of Contracts’ selection of Princess Operations Ltd as the preferred bidder was due to the price offered by Borg’s company.
The tender was originally issued in 2020, with the process being formally concluded on 12 April of this year.
On 18 February, former Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi said Transport Malta had reversed the decision to lease 41 vehicles corresponding to the same description of the tender reported by The Shift today, further claiming that officials at the Local Enforcement System Agency (LESA) and Transport Malta had conspired with Borg on a racket in which up to €3 million in fines related to Borg’s rental companies were waived.
However, it seems that the reversal was not followed through. When reached for further comment, Azzopardi described The Shift’s findings as “further confirmation of the machinations and sleaze that underpinned this major story I had revealed in Parliament less than five days before the prime minister announced the holding of the general election”.
Referring to the finalisation of the contract awarded to Borg’s company on 12 April, Azzopardi further argued that the decision merits criminal investigation because the bid filed by Borg may have breached public procurement regulations as well as the criminal code, as the operator in question is known to have a criminal record which should have rendered his companies ineligible for public procurement.
“The filling in of the tender document issued in 2020 prima facie contained a false declaration, in breach of article 188 of the Criminal Code which states that it is a crime to furnish a public authority with deliberately false information, and this due to the breach of the blacklisting clause,” Azzopardi said.
“In any normal country where the rule of law is supreme, this would have led to criminal consequences, not the blessing of the illegality by the public authority concerned,” Azzopardi said.
The department of contracts essentially signed off on a lucrative tender being awarded to a company owned by a man accused of taking part in a group kidnapping in which the victim, Carlos Schembri, recounted how Borg and his associates threatened to cut his fingers off and rape his sister.
Borg and his four other associates, Thorne Mangion, Tyson Grech, Burton Azzopardi, and Jeremy Borg, allegedly accosted Schembri in the van they kidnapped him in, forced him out of his car, and beat him up.
The alleged kidnappers, who run car rental companies together, were released on bail. Joseph Camenzuli, the Labour party’s official photographer for 20 years, stepped in to guarantee bail for Borg, essentially vouching for him in court.
Camenzuli’s decision to vouch for Borg raised further questions about the party’s links with organised crime, with Camenzuli now being installed as director of two of Borg’s companies – Princess Operations Ltd and No Deposit Cars Malta Ltd.
Borg’s links with the government do not stop with Camenzuli – Borg openly flaunted his close relationship with Prime Minister Robert Abela, and was also involved in a questionable property deal in which Abela netted €45,000 in profit.
The deal consisted of a promise-of-sale agreement for a plot of land in Żabbar that was passed from Malta Gas Distributors Ltd, former clients of Abela’s private legal practice, to Abela in June 2018.
Borg had applied for a planning permit to build nine apartments and garages on the same plot of land, despite having no public connection to it, and the permit was awarded on the same day Abela closed the deal.
That same promise-of-sale agreement was then passed on to Borg in November 2021, earning Abela his €45,000 cut. The Planning Authority has not answered The Shift’s questions about possible conflict of interest stemming from Abela conducting property deals with private clients while also serving as the PA’s lawyer at the time when the deal was signed.
When asked whether he carried out due diligence on Borg prior to doing business with him, Abela said it was up to the notary who oversaw the deal to ensure Borg’s funds were not illicit. The prime minister dismissed the stories linking him with Borg as “spin” without providing details.
On 13 February, Malta Today published a story revealing that in 2018, former tax commissioner Marvin Gaerty traveled to Las Vegas with Borg and his associate, Tyson Grech, two months after Borg was summoned for a tax audit.