Witness claims Enemalta official asked for €40,000 ‘gift’ for help on privatisation bid

Enemalta’s former chief projects officer denied asking for €40,000 from George Farrugia but admitted to accepting four silver trays and exchanging them for an antique.

Former Enemalta chief projects officer Ray Ferris soon after his arraignment for corruption last week.
Former Enemalta chief projects officer Ray Ferris soon after his arraignment for corruption last week.

Ray Ferris, 51 of Sliema, Enemalta's former chief projects officer, has been placed under a bill of indictment after a court found there was enough evidence 'prima facie' for him to stand trial for alleged corruption.

Ferris, who denies the charges, appeared before Magistrate Saviour Demicoli this morning, where Police Inspector Angelo Gafa from the Economic Crimes Unit, identified him as the man who had originally denied being involved in any act of corruption, but later admitted during interrogations to having received three gifts made of sterling silver from oil trader George Farrugia.

Ferris was arrested last month on the strength of declarations made by George Farrugia, the oil trader, once the managing director of Powerplan and local representative of Total Oils and Dutch commodities firm Trafigura.

Farrugia was later granted a presidential pardon, and recounted to the police all he knew about a system of kickbacks for oil procurements to senior Enemalta officials, and gifts to management when dealing with the privatisation process of the corporation's petroleum division.

Farrugia identified Ferris as the person he had spoken to in relation to the tender which was issued by government through the privatisation unit, given his position as 'liason officer' between the bidders and the adjudication board back in 2007 and 2008.

He told the police that when he discussed Powerplan's intention to submit a bid for Enemalta's petroleum division, 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.

While explaining that he left the Corporation after being made redundant during a restructuring process, he was given a €64,000 golden handshake. While also explaining that he was the liason between bidders and the adjudication board on the privatisation of the petroleum division, he  also admitted to have met Farrugia at the John's Group offices in Hamrun.

Ferris said that Farrugia had urged him to do all he could for Powerplan to win the bid on behalf of a Greek company which was very interested in taking over Enemalta's petroleum division.

It was then that Farrugia gave him the trays, and added that he didn't know what to do with them.

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.

Ferris said that Azzopardi had valued the trays at €2,700 and forked out more money to get the silver plate which cost €3,000.

The process

Inspector Angelo Gafa told Magistrate Demicoli that Enemalta's privatisation process of its petroleum division had started in 2005, but halfway through  2006, Mimcol - government's investments arm - finalised a list of assets.

A call for expressions of interest was issued and 25 expressions were recieved, 16 of which only were accepted as valid. All companies had made it to the second round, and an invitation to tender was issued.

In May 2008 there were four bidders remaining: 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.

The adjudication board which decided on the offers were: Alex Tranter (then) chairman of Enemalta, Alfed Camilleri permanent secretary at the finance ministry, Ivan Falzon from the  privatisation unit, Mario Mizzi from Mimcol, and oil expert Godwin Debono from the Office of the Prime Minister.

first we had oilopolis than clockopolis now trayopolis !! Il Borma mhawra sew Tidher !
Paul Sammut
All negotiations should be suspended and new tenders issued under transparent public adjudication.
Alex Tranter Chairman of Enemalta ?????; Ivan Falzon from the privatisation unit ?????; Mario Mizzi from Mimcol ?????; and oil expert(for non exploration!!!) Godwin Debono ??????????? from the Office of the Prime Minister and other authorities and ministries.