Simon Busuttil replies on Shell settlement statements

This right of reply is accorded to PN leader Simon Busuttil in reference to the claims made by Saviour Balzan in the Public Accounts Committee in his regard.

“My name was dropped in his testimony in order to associate it with the fuel procurement deals which are the subject of the PAC inquiry. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

"The facts are the following: 

  1. The fact that I was legal counsel for Shell’s agents in Malta from 2004 until I won their claim in 2011 was always in the public domain. Throughout these years I publicly represented my clients in a seven-year-long legal battle during which recourse was made to the MRA, the MRA Appeals Board, the Court of Appeal, the European Commission and the Office of Fair Competition, where my legal arguments were upheld. It is because these legal arguments were won that a claim for damages arose.
  2. I did not represent the clients in the legal proceedings for damages that followed in court, still less was I involved in the out-of-court settlement. This too can be established from the legal acts.
  3. The case was heading to the European Court of Justice because of the absence of competition in the aviation-fuel sector in Malta, where it not for the case that I pursued.
  4. The Shell case concerned access to the aviation fuel market at the airport and was not connected in any manner whatsoever with the fuel procurement that is the subject of the PAC inquiry. The impression banded about that the two are connected is therefore completely false and pure spin intended to link my name with something in which I was never, even remotely, involved."

Saviour Balzan replies

In the PAC I made reference to the fact that just weeks before MaltaToday broke the Enemalta oil scandal, the Nationalist Cabinet of ministers in 2013 was very much aware of problems with fuel procurement and access to the fuel market.

The reason for this was a decision to award a tax-free €5 million settlement to the Maltese representatives of the Shell group in Malta, after the Malta Resources Authority concluded that the group had been barred from accessing the aviation fuel market in Malta.

The European Commission had decided to refer Malta to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for allegedly breaching EU rules about fuel ground handling services at Malta International Airport. Aviation fuel was supplied by Enemalta which also owns storage facilities. Following the libearlisation of the market, Shell had also tried to start distributing fuel but it claimed that Enemalta was preventing it through uncompetitive measures to carry on with its business.

I told the PAC that the administration knew that something was amiss in fuel procurement, so MaltaToday’s story should not have been met with much amazement. The Cabinet accepted the MRA’s reasoning that Shell did not get a fair deal. Certainly there was a feeling in the government that something was wrong. Not to forget that although parliament had been dissolved on 7 January 2013, the Cabinet had decided to go ahead with a tax free payout of €5 million on 15 January. The payout underlined the serious problems with fuel procurement at Enemalta.

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