Former finance minister accused of tampering with figures

‘We played with figures in papers not to disclose who gave us the story and witnessed all the transaction … I hope the EU sees the trick, that is why we leaked the story’ – Former finance minister Tonio Fenech says in correspondence with a group of public officials

Former shadow finance minister Tonio Fenech
Former shadow finance minister Tonio Fenech

Former shadow finance minister Tonio Fenech would tamper with sensitive information leaked to him by a group of public officials before ‘leaking’ them to sections of the media, Sunday newspaper It-Torca has claimed.

In fresh correspondence published by the GWU-owned paper, it-Torca revealed how the now defunct Google Group - whose settings had been set to public - would have access to information obtained on a first-hand basis. He is also alleged to have shared this sensitive information with certain sections of the media. Correspondence published by the newspaper showed that in an effort not to disclose the source of the story, Fenech would provide different figures.

Correspondence published by it-Torca.
Correspondence published by it-Torca.

“We played with figures in papers as not to disclose who gave us the story and witnessed all the transaction,” Fenech is quoted as saying during the course of the correspondence with the group’s members.

The newspaper claimed that thanks to the group – which was set up to discuss the PN’s strategy on finance matters – Fenech was being given access to sensitive information through a network of friends working in high places in notably independent institutions like Malta’s Central Bank, the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) and the Nationalist Statistics Office (NSO) before this information would had been published or made known to the government.

Separately, correspondence published by One news on Saturday evening showed how the Google Group called “Finance Shadow Group” would discuss economic affairs with Fenech. In this group, the former shadow finance minister would liaise with the statistics chief of the Central Bank, Chris Pace, MFSA communications chief Keith Zahra and Carlos Camenzuli from the NSO. 

On one occasion, Fenech reportedly accused the European Commission of “clearly singing from the government song sheet", after the Commission published positive forecasts for Malta's economy.

The report also highlighted that former NSO director Michael Pace Ross denied ever disclosing any information to Tonio Fenech.

The Google Group has seen the suspension of two public officials – namely NSO manager Carlos Camenzuli and Central Bank manager Chris Pace – pending investigations into their alleged sharing of sensitive information to the PN’s shadow finance group. If this were the case, the public officials would be guilty of breaching their code of ethics.

However, the correspondence has since been described as “normal practice” by the Nationalist Party, with its deputy leader Mario de Marco, explaining that is simply of forum of discussion. The PN said it was untrue that the group shared information which was not already public.

The government has since been accused of embarking on a witch-hunt to single out the alleged spies on the basis of their political opinion. 

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