Frederick Azzopardi, former Infrastructure Malta CEO, insists he has nothing to hide. That’s strange. If he had nothing to hide, why did he tell Yorgen Fenech he wanted “circa 45% of 11 million” over WhatsApp?
‘We’ve built WhatsApp so your personal messages are protected by default and stay between you and those you send them to. No one else, not even WhatsApp, can read or listen to them,” the app states. Unfortunately for Frederick Azzopardi, WhatsApp hadn’t catered for Arnold Cassola.
After The Times of Malta revealed Yorgen Fenech’s promised €2 million success fee for the €40 million Marsa flyover project, Cassola got hold of those WhatsApp messages between Azzopardi and Yorgen Fenech. He went straight to the police and demanded to be called in for questioning.
Fenech reportedly messaged Azzopardi, “What would you like from this?”. Just the 45% of €11 million, Azzopardi messaged back.
Azzopardi is now desperately coming up with the most contemptible of excuses to defend himself.
He claimed the tendering process for the project preceded his appointment at Infrastructure Malta. But the Marsa flyover contract was formally awarded in July 2018 when Azzopardi was at the Authority’s helm.
An appeal lodged by a consortium of Maltese bidders was shot down by the contracts appeal board, and a Turkish company was awarded the contract. Their middleman happened to be Yorgen Fenech. And Frederick Azzopardi was the boss at Infrastructure Malta when it happened.
Azzopardi’s next excuse was that the text messages were just “a discussion about an invoicing issue between a contractor and the client”. He told The Times of Malta, “When I joined Infrastructure Malta …. I communicated with Mr Fenech as the representative of the project’s contractor on technical matters, including the contract’s applicable pre-financing payments and related bank guarantees amounting to circa €7 million.”
Azzopardi takes us all for fools. Since when does the CEO of a national infrastructure agency communicate with the middleman for a private contractor about millions of euro using a secret messaging service? That doesn’t sound like somebody who has nothing to hide.
His defence betrays the standards to which Labour’s politically appointed CEOs operate. CEOs of national agencies are responsible for maintaining detailed and verifiable records and ensuring that any communication with private contractors can be scrutinised and reviewed when and as required.
Instead, it seems that Azzopardi did not want anybody to find out about his “circa €7 million”.
Cynically, Azzopardi attempts to deflect attention from the very fact that he was communicating secretly with Yorgen Fenech via WhatsApp as if it were the most ordinary and professional thing to do. With typical arrogance, Azzopardi even challenged Cassola to publish the whole conversation.
And Cassola did. Fenech texted Azzopardi on 9 January 2019, asking him for inside information about whether and when payments were made to a private company called Shining Star Construction, owned by Turkish billionaire Robert Yildirim. That company had taken over the Marsa flyover construction after Yorgen Fenech’s Ayhanlar went bankrupt and could not carry out the project.
Fenech had no right to know whether and when Shining Star Construction was paid. Yet Azzopardi passed on that inside information to him right away: “It (the payment) went through in the last week of 2018, 7.4 (million euro),” Azzopardi replied.
Fenech got what he wanted. He reportedly fired an e-mail to Yildirim’s company demanding his 20% cut: “The first payment of €7.4 million has been successfully sent last week of 2018. As per agreement (written and verbal), I need to invoice €400,000 (20%). Please let me know which entity I need to send the invoice to ASAP, and please, if it’s a foreign company, serves better since VAT is avoided”.
The man accused of commissioning the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia used the inside information Azzopardi gave him to pester Yildirim for €400,000.
But Yildirim hadn’t signed any deal with Fenech. So on 22 January 2019, Yildirim wrote back to Fenech: “We can be in (sic) the front pages of newspapers in Malta. Apparently you might like it. What will you tell the court? Bribing someone but no payment”.
The project, which had been suspiciously awarded to the bankrupt Ayhanlar, was secretly passed on to Yildirim’s company. But we, the public, were kept in the dark. Neither the government nor the responsible minister bothered to issue any statement. And, of course, the man who has nothing to hide, Frederick Azzopardi, concealed the whole mess from us.
On 30 November 2018, Azzopardi gave a public “technical explanation on the building of flyovers and other aspects of the third phase”. He had every opportunity to inform us that Ayhanlar had gone bust and that his Infrastructure Malta had to frantically look for some Turkish billionaire to plug the gap to save Labour’s blushes.
The Maltese contractors’ consortium had pointed out that Ayhanlar lacked the equipment and batching plants to execute the project. But Labour was determined to give the project to Yorgen Fenech’s Ayhanlar. You wonder why.
Most of those €2 million Yorgen Fenech was expecting to make out of the project were headed for Wings Investment, the sister company of 17 Black listed by Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri as their “potential payer”.
But Frederick Azzopardi insists he has nothing to hide. And that’s why, when Azzopardi was charged in court, Joseph Muscat was so quick to spring to his defence and threaten, “We too have a voice, and it is the voice of thousands”.
Muscat knows what went on at Infrastructure Malta. He knows precisely what secrets the Marsa flyover hides.
Infrastructure Malta refused to provide Arnold Cassola with any documents relating to the case – without giving any reason. They didn’t provide a single document. Not one.
If Frederick Azzopardi has nothing to hide, why is Labour’s government so desperately keeping everything hidden? And why does Robert Abela keep covering up for Joseph Muscat’s gang?