'Tailor-made' transport lights tender raised bidders’ suspicions

Bidders complained about ‘tailor-made’ traffic lights tenders awarded to company represented by rogue trader George Farrugia, who was privy to insider information

Rival bidders had lodged official complaints with the Malta Transport Authority about tenders which they described as “tailor-made” for lighting systems of an Austrian company represented by oil trader George Farrugia. 

On Sunday, MaltaToday published emails which show that Farrugia was privy to sensitive information that put the companies he represented in a favourable position to win tenders.

Farrugia set up a company, ATMS, after he made contact with the Austrian company.

MaltaToday is reliably informed that the losing bidders had from the very beginning warned the authority that the tenders were “tailor-made” to favour the Austrian company, Swarco, which Farrugia represented, and which was awarded the majority of all major tenders for lighting systems along kilometres of roads in Malta and Gozo. 

Farrugia is the recipient of a presidential pardon granted to him in 2013 conditional on him spilling the beans on the scale of bribery at Enemalta, where he greased top officials to assist him in winning fuel procurement contracts for his oil clients TOTSA and Trafigura. 

But the emails published on Sunday by this newspaper show that Farrugia was also keen on keeping in touch with Kenneth Spiteri – a key official at the Malta Transport Authority (Transport Malta’s forerunner) – going as far as organising a trip for him to Austria to discuss traffic lighting systems.

MaltaToday has also learnt that the police’s Economic Crimes Unit has opened an investigation, while the Transport Malta official was suspended with half pay on Sunday after MaltaToday revealed how he had sent an email to Swarco suggesting the lower prices which would make winning the tender possible. 

The published emails show how Spiteri would keep Farrugia informed of most tendering pre-developments at ADT. 

MaltaToday has learnt that Farrugia was always the middleman in many of the original tenders, and, fearing the worst, Transport Malta officials have now asked for a record of all tenders issued and awarded. 

Sources at Transport Malta have confirmed that Farrugia had an interest in tenders awarded by the authority.

Apart from knowing Spiteri, Farrugia was also very well acquainted with Ray Stafrace, who was not only the chief financial officer at Transport Malta but also the accountant who offered his office address for Farrugia’s Aikon Limited, the secret company which Farrugia used to transfer the money made off Powerplan’s sales of fuel oil, and into his Swiss bank account. 

Stafrace, a certified public accountant, holds the post of director of procurement at Transport Malta and MaltaToday understands that he is also under the authority’s spotlight.  

As already revealed by MaltaToday, Farrugia’s tentacles also took him to the Malta Resources Authority, where emails published had led to the suspension and prosecution of official Godwin Sant, found having received gifts from Farrugia. 

The pressure to revoke Farrugia’s presidential pardon increased after a court decision acquitted an Enemalta senior official – Ray Ferris – who was prosecuted by the Police on the basis of allegations made by Farrugia. 

The decision has been appealed by the Attorney General. However, if the sentence is confirmed upon appeal, the Attorney General may be constrained to take the ultimate step of revoking the presidential pardon.