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Former Enemalta chief officer Ray Ferris acquitted of bribery charges

Former chief projects officer had been named by State's witness George Farrugia, the oil trader, as having asked for a €40,000 bribe to help his bid for the privatisation of Enemalta's petroleum division

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
21 May 2015, 1:00pm
Last updated on 21 May 2015, 1:34pm
Ray Ferris
Ray Ferris
A court has declared Enemalta’s former chief projects officer not guilty of corruption charges this afternoon,

Ray Ferris, 53 of Sliema, hugged family members - and his lawyer, Veronique Dalli - after walking outside the courtroom as a free man, acquitted of all charges. 

Ferris had been accused by State witness George Farrugia of receiving three gifts of silver from the oil trader.

In a judgement over 100 pages long, Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera ruled that the defendant's testimony was more believeable when measured against the facts, in that he not had gone to George Farrugia’s office for Christmas drinks, but had bumped into him in the street. It did not appear that Ferris had accepted to participate in any discussion about tenders with third parties at any point, said the magistrate.

Before he left, Farrugia had given Ferris a Christmas present, telling him if he didn’t want to keep it he was free to gift it to whoever he wished. This, said the court, does not constitute the “meeting of wills” requirement for the offence of corruption to subsist.

Magistrate Scerri Herrera listed the six elements of the offence of trading in influence, noting that not one of them had been proven, surmising that the AG may have included the charge “as an oversight.”

With regards to the charge of fraud, the court said that neither had the accused used a mise en scene to gain an advantage, nor had he been placed in an advantageous position by simply accepting a Christmas gift from Farrugia. This action alone did not satisfy the parameters of the offence.

It could not be said that Farrugia was a victim or had been tricked into suffering any financial loss, as he had voluntarily given the objects as a gift under no obligation whatsoever, held the court, also acquitting Ferris of this charge.

Ferris had been arrested on the strength of declarations made by Farrugia, once the managing director of Powerplan and a representative of TOTSA and Dutch commodities firm Trafigura.

Farrugia was granted a presidential pardon after MaltaToday revealed that he had been at the centre of a system of kickbacks to Enemalta officials, for the procurement of oil to the state utility company.

Under conditions of his pardon, Farrugia told police all he knew about a system of kickbacks for oil procurement to senior Enemalta officials, and gifts to management when dealing with the privatisation process of the corporation’s petroleum division.

Farrugia identified Ferris as Enemalta’s liaison officer in relation to the tender issued by the Privatisation Unit, for the corporation’s petroleum division. Farrugia claimed Ferris had asked him for €40,000 in return for help in the adjudication.

According to Farrugia, Ferris had also asked him for gifts to be given to the board members.
In his statements to the police, Farrugia claimed to have spent €8,000 in buying four silver plates, each worth €2,000 each using a credit card belonging to Powerplan Limited.

Farrugia passed on the trays to Ferris, who in turn – it transpired – had kept them for himself, and had taken them to Azzopardi Jewellers and exchanged them for an antique 1828 tray and some other items. The tray was found inside Ferris home during a subsequent search, and seized as evidence.

During interrogations, Ferris categorically denied any involvement in corruption, until he was made to confront Farrugia and admitted to having received the silver trays and going to Azzopardi Jewellers with them.

Ferris was made redundant during Enemalta’s restructuring process, leaving with a  €64,000 golden handshake.

He denied ever having asked for €40,000 but admitted to having gone to Azzopardi Jewellers to exchange the trays, and take something else instead.

In May 2008 there were four bidders for the petroleum division: Powerplan, BB Energy, Island Oils Holdings of the Tumas Group, and Falzon Group in association with a Russian company. The adjudication board decided that BB Energy’s was the best. Negotiations have started with BB Energy and are still in progress with government.

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...