Article updated with additional response from Azzopardi.
The European Public Prosecutors Office (EPPO), the EU’s anti-fraud office, has been granted an investigation order into former Infrastructure Malta CEO Fredrick Azzopardi under “reasonable suspicion” of money laundering, EU finances fraud and bribery.
The investigation order, granted on Wednesday by the Maltese criminal court in a ruling by Judge Neville Camilleri, is understood to have been issued in connection with the Marsa Junction project, led by Azzopardi.
The ruling ordered almost 80 banks, money transfer services, government entities and gambling companies linked to Azzopardi to provide access and financial documentation to police inspectors.
The order, seen by The Shift and issued on 24 January, gave the companies and agencies 24 hours to provide the information to EU and Maltese investigators. The court additionally ordered Azzopardi be notified within the same timeframe.
Azzopardi resigned from Infrastructure Malta in April 2022, coinciding with former Transport and Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg’s, previously in charge of Infrastructure Malta, reshuffling to Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In comments to The Shift on 26 January, Azzopardi claimed he “had no knowledge of this order,” claiming that while other news platforms had contacted him about the issue, he had not been formally notified.
The investigation order was issued following a request by a delegated European prosecutor (DEP) from EPPO. In the order, Judge Camilleri said the criminal court “agrees with the DEP that there is reasonable suspicion that the suspect (Azzopardi) is guilty” of charges relating to money laundering.
Specifically, it listed articles in the Maltese criminal code relating to breaches of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, intentional defrauding and misappropriation of EU financial interests, and bribery. Those found guilty of breaching the listed articles may face imprisonment for up to eight years.
The criminal court ordered more than 20 local and foreign banks and seven gambling companies, among almost 80 companies and agencies, to provide investigators access to the funds and documentation on properties, accounts and involved persons.
Following the publication of this article, Azzopardi sent a further response to The Shift in which he said the allegations were repeated, denying them completely.
“The allegations being referred to in your article are based on text messages forming part of a correspondence which was not even related to the Marsa Junction Project or to any payment. They are quoted out of context and have nothing to do with any irregularity.”
Azzopardi said he was not involved in the selection of the contractors for the project. “While I continue to deny these allegations, I confirm that to date, I have not been informed of any ongoing investigation or other similar actions about them. I also confirm that I have never been questioned about them by any authority or other entity,” he said, welcoming any investigations and pledging his cooperation.
Azzopardi, who served as Infrastructure Malta CEO from its set-up in 2018 until 2022, while under Minister Borg’s remit, undertook several large-scale transport infrastructure projects, often making extensive use of EU funds.
Projects such as the Marsa junction, Santa Lucija underpass and Central Link bypass were all completed using the European Union’s Cohesion Fund, which saw hundreds of millions of euro in EU funds spent.
Under Borg and Azzopardi’s leadership, the Transport and Infrastructure Ministry was highly criticised by environmental NGOs and activism groups, who claimed its projects were short-sighted, car-centric, and lacked environmental consciousness.
Before working at Infrastructure Malta, Azzopardi led state energy company Enemalta during its undertaking of the controversial Electrogas liquified natural gas energy supply and Montenegro wind farm projects.
In 2022, independent politician Arnold Cassola passed on whistleblower information to Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa’ in relation to the Marsa Junction project, citing “grave illegalities”.
He said there was evidence pointing to irregular and untransparent behind-the-scenes negotiations, fronts involved in the tendering process, a strong suspicion of commissions skimming and inexplicable bank payments.