Former Enemalta chairman charged with misappropriating, misusing corporation funds

Alex Tranter’s defence says police have no proof that former Enemalta chairman misappropriated or misused corporation’s funds

Former Enemalta chairman Alex Tranter, 51, of Swieqi, was this morning charged with misappropriating and misusing the corporation’s funds in connection with his alleged exorbitant expenditure covered by his Enemalta credit card.

Tranter – who served as a non-executive chairman of the corporation between 2005 and 2010 after replacing Tancred Tabone– underlined that he is not “definitely not guilty” of the charges, with his defence insisting, amongst others, that the prosecution’s charges are unsubstantiated since a non-executive chairman can spend up to €2.3 million without prior authorisation.

Taking the witness stand, prosecuting inspector Jonathan Ferris explained that during his Enemalta chairmanship, Tranter allegedly spent an amount during foreign travel, with the expenses having being covered by Tranter’s Enemalta credit card.

Tranter was placed under investigation in May 2014, after an audit flagged certain expenses made during his tenure. His charges, however, are unrelated to the Enemalta procurement oil scandal.

The inspector said Tranter’s personal secretary, Maria ‘Bronia’ Mercieca, would oversee his credit card spending and any other logistic arrangements, while the finance department would oversee the spending of other officials.

In his testimony, the prosecuting inspector explained that in October 2007, Tranter is said to have spent LM1,035 in Miami using Enemalta’s credit card and that contrary to Enemalta’s policy, he did not file any receipts.

“When he [Tranter] was asked about this spending, he said that he could not remember how he spent the money, but pointed the finger at the financial department for not having a receipt,” he said.

Moreover, Tranter is alleged to have spent €540 to purchase a mobile phone and that he had purchased a Sony laptop for LM1,035 with the company’s funds.

The inspector also said that in 2008, despite not being on the official travel list, Tranter travelled to Brussels and London and used Enemalta’s credit card to fund his expenses.

“Even though he was not on Enemalta’s official travel list, Tranter withdrew £200 from an ATM in Gatwick Airport in London.”

“During his interrogation, Tranter told police that he could not remember how he spent the money but insisted that it was not the first time that he was on a personal trip and that he ended up working on Enemalta-related business,” Ferris said.

The inspector also told the court that in 2010, Tranter attended the International Petroleum forum in London together with two other Enemalta officials – Engineer Janice Mericeca, and CFO Antoine Galea – and Tranter’s personal assistant Bronia Mercieca.

“While the other Enemalta officials stayed at the Holiday Inn, Tranter and Mercieca stayed in different rooms at the Hilton,” he said.

The inspector explained that Bronia Mercieca was on vacation leave and had asked Tranter to accompany the delegation because she had never visited London before.

Despite being on a vacation, Mercieca is said to have attended a two-hour business meeting, prompting Tranter to allegedly pay his assistant’s stay “as a sign of gratitude.”

During cross-examination, defence lawyer Joe Giglio insisted that the prosecution could not prove that Tranter had spent Enemalta’s money for his personal use.

Giglio underlined that it is the prosecution who has to prove how the misappropriation occurred, a charge which according to the defence, has not been sufficiently proven.

“The fact that Tranter was not on duty when he withdrew money from Gatwick airport does did not mean that he could not attend unexpected work-related meetings,” Giglio said.

Moreover, the defence sarcastically questioned whether the prosecution “was serious” when he had charged Tranter for paying the accommodation of his personal assistant, claiming that the latter had attended a meeting out of her own initiative.

Inspectors Jonathan Ferris and Ian Abdilla prosecuted, while Lawyers Michael and Lucio Sciriha were parte civile.

Lawyer Joe Giglio defended the accused.

The case has been adjourned until November 17.