‘If Konrad Mizzi is involved, he either decides for himself or I’ll take a decision’ – Abela on 17 Black

Malta PM calls for full justice on 17 Black scandal, says anyone connected to case must be investigated

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela

Prime Minister Robert Abela has called for full justice on the allegations that Yorgen Fenech’s 17 Black was employed to sell Enemalta a stake in a Montenegrin wind energy project.

“The reforms we are embarking on through the Venice Commission’s recommendations would be just a reform on paper… law enforcement must ensure full justice on this case, by investigating anyone connected to this case, whoever they are. The truth must prevail,” Abela said at Castille.

“If the investigation leads to criminal responsibility, prosecution should start in our courts immediately,” Abela declared.

“If what is reported is true, I am disgusted… Malta’s law enforcement officers must investigate. They must investigate anyone connected to this event. Certainly enough, full justice deserves they investigate anyone, whoever it is. I will not protect anyone. If a politician or anyone  is involved… they had better take their first steps before I take them,” he later told MaltaToday.

“If Konrad Mizzi has any involvement in this case, he either has to decide for himself, or else I will be the one to take the decision,” he said, hinting at the Chris Cardona resignation earlier this week.

A money trail has linked Dubai-based company 17 Black to Enemalta’s purchase of a Montenegrin wind farm in 2015, according to a journalistic investigation.

17 Black, owned by Yorgen Fenech, who has been charged with masterminding the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, is understood to have made a profit of €4.6 million from the deal.

The joint investigation by Reuters and Times of Malta sheds light on 17 Black’s operations through this particular deal.

The report says that in December 2015, 17 Black made a previously undisclosed profit of €4.6 million when Malta’s state energy company, Enemalta, bought a wind farm in Montenegro.

The energy minister at the time was Konrad Mizzi, who made several trips to Montenegro.

READ ALSO: Jason Azzopardi accuses Konrad Mizzi of escaping justice, Prime Minister of covering up

This was the same period when accountants for Mizzi and the prime minister’s then chief of staff, Keith Schembri, wrote in an email that Panama companies owned by the pair stood to receive payments from 17 Black for services that weren’t specified.

Schembri had confirmed in April 2018 that his Panama company had a “draft business plan” with 17 Black that was not implemented. Mizzi has always denied connection and knowledge of 17 Black.

Reuters said that it found no evidence that 17 Black made payments to Schembri and Mizzi.

However, sources speaking to the journalists lifted the lid on how the Montenegro deal ended up leaving €4.6 million in 17 Black’s coffers.

The project concerns Montenegro’s Mozura wind farm project, which was launched in 2010. A concession to build and run the wind farm was won by a Spanish company, Fersa Renovables, since merged with another Spanish firm, Audax Renovables.

In November 2015, Enemalta acquired the project for €10.3 million, more than three times the original price tag.

However, accounts published by Fersa revealed that the company sold its 99% interest in Mozura to an intermediary, a Seychelles-registered company called Cifidex Ltd. The remaining 1% of shares, held by a local Montenegrin company, were also sold to Cifidex.

Reuters said that according to the public records, Cifidex bought the Mozura shares on 10 December 2015, for €2.9 million. Two weeks later, Cifidex sold all the shares to Enemalta for €10.3 million.

Reuters could not establish the ownership of Cifidex, and the extent of any profit it made, nor how or why Cifidex became involved in the sale. 

But sources involved in the transaction told Reuters that Cifidex purchased the shares from Fersa with €3 million borrowed from 17 Black.

After Cifidex sold the shares to Enemalta, it repaid the €3 million, plus an additional €4.6 million “profit share,” to 17 Black.

According to sources with access to information about 17 Black’s bank account in Dubai, 17 Black transferred €3 million to Cifidex in late November 2015.

The amount of money Cifidex paid back ranged between €7.6 million and €7.8 million according to different sources.

But Reuters also revealed that Cifidex is owned by Turab Musayev, an executive of SOCAR Trading, the Swiss-based subsidiary of the Azerbaijan state oil company, SOCAR.

Musayev, who has a British passport, was a business associate of Fenech, the owner of 17 Black.

The two men were directors in the Electrogas consortium that won the gas power station tender. SOCAR Trading is a shareholder in Electrogas.

In comments to Reuters, Musayev’s UK-based law firm, Atkins Thomson, said their client had no reason to avoid any dealings with Fenech.

“As you will imagine, our client knew nothing, suspected nothing, and had no reason to believe Mr Fenech had any involvement in this atrocity,” the law firm was quoted as saying.

Reuters said the letter indicated that Cifidex had its own independent management but it did not directly address Musayev’s ownership of Cifidex, or respond to questions about his role in the Mozura deal. A further letter clarified that beyond the Mozura transaction, Musayev had “no other business with Mr Fenech.”

Mizzi, Muscat on Mozura deal

In comments to Reuters, Mizzi and former prime minister Joseph Muscat said they were not aware that Musayev, 17 Black or Fenech were connected to the wind farm project.

Former OPM chief of staff, Schembri did not respond.

Muscat, who opened the completed wind farm project in November 2019, just before he left office, said in a statement: “My role was to foster relations with the government of Montenegro at Presidential and Prime Ministerial level, as was my duty as Prime Minister.” He said that, to his knowledge, Schembri was not involved in negotiations for the project.