Roads agency turns down Cassola FOI bid for Marsa Junction documents and minutes

Infrastructure Malta has turned down a freedom of information request by independent politician Arnold Cassola for communications that discuss the Marsa flyover project

The Marsa Junction flyover
The Marsa Junction flyover

The roads agency Infrastructure Malta has turned down a freedom of information request by independent politician Arnold Cassola for communications that discuss the Marsa flyover project.

Arnold Cassola has given police investigators a cache of WhatsApp chats between the Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech and former Infrastructure Malta boss Fredrick Azzopardi, which he says suggests corrupt practices in the tender process for the Marsa Junction.

“This request was done in order to shed light on the murkiness regarding the Marsa Junction deals. However Infrastructure Malta has preferred to foster its culture of secrecy and hide essential information,” Cassola said of his FOI, filed six weeks ago.

Cassola requested copies of tenders, direct orders and agreements which Infrastructure Malta made with Turkish magnate Robert Yildrim and his companies, payments; any form of communication with then transport minister Ian Borg and Azzopardi regarding Ayhanlar’s difficulties in completing the project; Robert Yildrim’s involvement in the project; minutes of meetings of IM directors when the Marsa Junction, Aylanhar, Yildrim, or Shining Star Infrastructure and Construction were discussed; and the resolution of IM directors to reassign the Marsa Junction tender from Ayhanlar to Yildirim’s Shining Star Infrastructure and Construction.

“Infrastructure Malta is giving a blanket refusal to all my requests. Why all this secrecy? What is Infrastructure Malta trying to hide away from the Maltese people?” Cassola said.

Cassola says he has presented Commissioner of Police Angelo Gafà with first-hand evidence on grave illegalities in relation to the massive Marsa Junction roads project, namely primary sources “that clearly demonstrate that blatant illegalities went on with regards to the multi-million major project in our country.”

Specifically, there is evidence that the company belonging to Turkish billionaire Robert Yildirim, was already angling to take over the roadworks weeks in advance before the tender was formally awarded to another Turkish company, Ayhanlar Yol Asfaltlama.

The texts, which Cassola said were sent in early 2019, have Fenech asking “x’tixtieq minn dik?” (what would you like from that?) to which Azzopardi replies “circa 45% of 11m”.

Reacting to the claims, Fredrick Azzopardi said the contract was awarded in 2018, and the text messages were sent in 2019. “This timeline rubbishes any claim that my correspondence with Mr Fenech was related to the “negotiations for the project”, “the tendering process” or “insider information”,” he said.

He insisted the Marsa Junction contract was awarded through a public call for tenders by Transport Malta, before he was transferred from Enemalta to fill the role of CEO at Infrastructure Malta. Azzopardi also said the 45% refers to "technical matters related to the [Electrogas] project, including the contract’s applicable pre-financing payments and related bank guarantees, amounting to circa €7 million, as well as logistical issues about the shipment of materials, which needed to be concluded before the main works could proceed”.

But in a statement issued on Sunday morning, Cassola said “45% of 11M do not amount to circa €7 million, but to €4.95 million.”

“In a WhatsApp conversation on 9 January 2019, 11.13 a.m., Yorgen Fenech asks Fredrick Azzopardi: "Dawk l-ewwel wiehed meta"? "Taf"?. Fredrick Azzopardi immediately answers at 11.14 a.m.: "Ghadda last week ta 2018. 7.4",” the independent candidate said in his Sunday morning reaction.

He also said that Azzopardi “may not know” that a few minutes later, on 9 January 2019, at 11.29am Malta time, Yorgen Fenech sends an email to persons of the Yildirim group in Turkey, informing them that the first payment relating to the Marsa Junction project had been made by the Government of Malta and that he now wants his 20% of his success fee (€400,000).

The verbatim text according to Cassola read as follows: “The first payment of 7.4 m has been successfully sent last week of 2018. As per agreement (written and verbal) I need to invoice 400k (20%). Please let me know which entity I need to send this invoice to ASAP and please if it’s a foreign company serves better since VAT is avoided - Yorgen Fenech”.

“Things could not be clearer: the €7.4 million payment was not for the old Electrogas project but for the new Marsa Junction one,” Cassola said.