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MFSA docs contradict govt's claim that oil trader could not be connected to Aikon
Finance ministry claims tax investigation that started in August 2011 did not connect oil trader to Aikon, but MaltaToday search confirms fiduciary company had transferred shares to George Farrugia back in January 2011.
18 February 2013, 12:00am
The annual financial statements for George Farrugia's trading company Aikon Limited for 2011, have contradicted statements given yesterday by finance minister Tonio Fenech, that a tax fraud investigation by the Tax Compliance Unit (TCU) in 2011 could not link the trader to Aikon - the company at the heart of police investigations on the payment of kickbacks by commodities firm Trafigura for the supply of fuel to state utility Enemalta.
Investigations into Aikon's tax under-declaration were initiated in August 2011, when an "official source" - as described by Fenech in comments to MaltaToday - had forwarded copies of suspicious invoices to his ministry's secretariat, which in turn were passed on to the TCU.
Fenech yesterday said that the TCU had "reported back to government that the shareholder and director in Aikon Limited was a registered fiduciary company going by the name of Intershore Fiduciary Services Limited."
But a search in the Malta Financial Services Authority's company register by MaltaToday has revealed that Aikon was already registered under George Farrugia's ownership as early as 2010, with documents bearing his signature as a director and later in January 2011 as a shareholder.
Specifically, George Farrugia had signed as director of Aikon a notification of change in the registered office of the company on 1 November 2010, registering the notification at the MFSA on 13 January 2011.
That same day, he also filed a notification that the company had become a single member company "through the acquisition of all its shares" after Intershore Fiduciary resigned from director, legal and judicial representative of Aikon.
The revelation raises new questions as to what kind of investigations were carried out by the TCU in connection to Aikon, and what information was passed on to government on the investigation.
While Fenech has insisted that the tax investigation is not connected to the ongoing fuel procurement investigation by the police, it is not established whether the invoices in the TCU's hands included suspicious transactions for the supply of oil to Enemalta, which were first published by MaltaToday in January.
According to Fenech, who spoke to MaltaToday after yesterday's PN mass meeting in Zebbug, "the TCU investigations have been ongoing since 2011, because the process is long, due to the fiduciary company which appears as shareholder, apart from the fact that overseas enquires were also necessary."
Fenech also said that he never saw the invoices and documentation supplied to the TCU, and could not say whether they were similar or the same invoices which have already been reproduced by MaltaToday, triggering a full-blown police investigation into alleged corruption inside Enemalta's fuel procurement earlier this January.
Fenech said the photocopies of the Aikon invoices had been passed on to his secretariat by an "official source", which he refused to qualify. "The invoices did not come from the general public... that is all I am allowed to say."
Fenech also denied ever meeting George Farrugia, whose company Aikon represented Trafigura and Total in Malta; and has now turned State's evidence to testify on kickbacks which a former Enemalta consultant - former MOBC chief executive Frank Sammut - is alleged to have received from Trafigura on a US$4.4 million fuel consignment to Enemalta in 2004.
Fenech also denied having received any gifts from Farrugia, after MaltaToday reported that police investigations will be focusing on information supplied by Farrugia of gifts or monetary payments he made to a third party.
"I didn't meet Farrugia or received any gifts from him or anybody else," Fenech told MaltaToday.
Revenues diverted to Aikon
The Sunday Times reported this week that the tax fraud investigation appears to be linked to a civil case instituted by the brothers of George Farrugia, accusing him of siphoning off oil revenues from their oil trading firm Powerplan Ltd, a subsidiary of the John's Group of Companies.
While the case was settled out of court, Farrugia was accused of having invoiced Powerplan's oil sales under his personal company - Aikon -unbeknownst to his brothers. An investigative audit of emails from Farrugia and his wife's computers, carried out by the Farrugia brothers through the law firm FSD Consulting, estimated that Farrugia had diverted some US$8.6 million in revenues from Powerplan to Aikon.
The finance ministry has denied any knowledge of this audit and its findings.
Farrugia traded under the company name Aikon for the supply of oil from both Total and Trafigura, while email correspondence revealed by MaltaToday shows that Farrugia kept the oil firms in the know about meetings he had held with then energy minister Austin Gatt back in 2004.
Gatt, who has denied discussing any oil tenders with Farrugia, was one of the persons questioned by police in the ensuing criminal investigation. Other businessmen questioned include former Enemalta chairman Tancred Tabone, and his co-shareholders in bunkering firm Island Bunker Oils Ltd, Francis Portelli and Anthony Cassar.
Frank Sammut, who was Tabone's consultant at Enemalta after his role as chief executive of the Enemalta subsidiary Mediterranean Bunkering Oil Corporation was terminated in 2003, has also been questioned.
Farrugia will turn State's evidence after Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi recommended that he be awarded a presidential pardon.