'Austin Gatt knew of oil scandal before story broke' - Emanuel Delia

Former minister Austin Gatt’s head of secretariat Emanuel Delia denies involvement in Enemalta's oil procurement, says he only got to know about oil trader George Farrugia following MaltaToday reports on oil scandal in January 2013

Manwel Delia giving evidence before the PAC (Photo: Ray Attard)
Manwel Delia giving evidence before the PAC (Photo: Ray Attard)

Former minister Austin Gatt’s head of secretariat Emanuel Delia today denied any involvement in the sale or purchase of oil by State entity Enemalta.

Delia said this while giving evidence before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee which is scrutinising the Auditor General’s audit into the procurement of fuel at Enemalta.

He also said that Gatt warned him of the reports on the oil scandal by SMS "hours before" MaltaToday broke the news in January 2013.

"In his usual frankness, Gatt asked me whether I knew anything or anyone who benefitted from the oil procurement and I told him I do not have any fat bank account in Malta or abroad," he said, adding that he believes this exchange took place before the publication of the news by MaltaToday.

Delia – a former PN candidate – said he was not aware of any meetings between members of Gatt’s secretariat and rogue trader George Farrugia.

“I never met him and only got to know about his existence before this investigation,” Delia said, adding that when he does not “consciously” remember ever meeting him or crossing paths with him. He also denied ever meeting anyone from the Farrugia family or knowing of meetings between the farrugia family and members of Gatt's secretariat.

Despite admitting that he was involved in all aspects of Gatt’s ministerial work during his 13 years with the minister, Delia said he was not aware when the meeting between Gatt’s then personal secretary and current MP Claudio Grech and Farrugia who turned State’s evidence after MaltaToday revealed in January 2013 that a former state official had accepted bribes from oil giant Trafigura for the sale of oil to Enemalta.

Earlier this month, MaltaToday published a collection of emails showing that Grech had met oil trader George Farrugia, who turned State’s evidence in the Enemalta oil scandal, on more than one occasion before 2012.

This came after Grech, who before 2013 served in transport and infrastructure minister Austin Gatt’s personal secretariat, told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee that he had first met Farrugia in 2012, when he decided to run for the 2013 general election.

Asked whether he met Grech following MaltaToday’s revelations to carry out a damage limitation exercise and said that if anyone had told him that he met the Farrugia family following the revelations, he would have told him “are you crazy?”

Delia said he had no knowledge of the meeting between a member of the Farrugia family and Grech, who was accompanied by Bernard Pace who at the time served as Delia's secretary.

In his evidence, Delia begin by reading out a statement in which he said that at the time covered by the investigation he was only responsible for the ministry’s communications and he was not involved in policy.

However Delia denied that he was ever involved in the purchase of oil after taking over from Grech as head of secretariat.

“I never had direct involvement in sale of oil to Enemalta and I never discussed Enemalta’s oil procurement with anyone,” he read.

Delia added that Gatt always made it clear that members of his secretariat should “never get involved in any procurement procedures.”

He added that the former minister also warned his staff to distance themselves from any conflict of interest, “let alone corruption.”

In his statement, Delia also insisted that Gatt led by example and refused to meet anyone interested in discussing procurement.

On his involvement in the Austin Gatt campaign team, Delia said this was restricted to strategy. While pointing out that he wasn’t Gatt’s campaign “mastermind,” Delia said nobody would seek his advice on getting elected following his dismal showing in the 2013 election.

He also denied knowing of anyone giving large donations in cash to the Gatt campaign.

Quizzed by justice minister Owen Bonnici over the NAO report which highlights the fact that Delia was copied in two emails sent by Austin Gatt to former Enemalta chairman Alex Tranter in regards to hedging deals.

Bonnici also underlined the fact that the NAO stressed that there should have been no political involvement in such dealings.

But Delia retorted “this email does not indicate any political interference over who should Enemalta buy the oil from.”

“I was his [Gatt’s] head of secretariat and I advised him and was involved in all aspects of his ministerial decisions but we never got involved in who should Enemalta buy its oil from.

The committee was adjourned to 4 November.