Updated 4.18pm

Konrad Mizzi has claimed that he was simply an “observer” in meetings that led to the decision to grant a power station contract to the Electrogas consortium.

Mizzi was Energy Minister at the time.

“I was just an observer,” Mizzi insisted, despite being read excerpts from minutes that made it clear he spoke during those meetings. “My job was to serve as an interface with the government. I would take in information and report back.”

The Electrogas consortium was handed a contract to build and run a gas-fired power station in Delimara for 18 years in 2013. The deal was being probed by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was working on a leaked cache of documents when she was assassinated.

One of the power station’s shareholders, Yorgen Fenech, stands accused of complicity in her murder. Leaked documents have also revealed that an offshore company owned by Fenech was to funnel money to other offshore companies owned by Mizzi and former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri. Another Electrogas shareholder, Paul Apap Bologna, had an offshore structure identical to Fenech’s

The Electrogas deal was the subject of a 500-page report by the National Audit Office which found a number of shortcomings in the selection process for that project and concluded that the due diligence process was “insufficient”, among other things.

Mizzi avoids questions

In a boisterous meeting of parliament’s Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday, Mizzi and his two lawyers repeatedly complained about the way Opposition members of the PAC asked questions of him.

Questions were not being asked “objectively”, the now-independent MP said. “These are loaded and leading questions.”

Mizzi repeatedly refused to answer questions about his relationship with individuals involved in selecting the Electrogas bid, such as David Galea, Thomas Leonard or Brian Tonna.

Instead, he said that he was only obliged to respond to questions directly related to the NAO report that the parliamentary committee is probing.

Asked whether he had flagged a conflict of interest involving Galea, Leonard and Tonna, Mizzi asserted that he "did nothing wrong".

"The report states those people were competent. I felt nothing was wrong... even the auditor said they were competent."

Meeting with Fenech, Musayev

Mizzi was marginally more accomodating when asked about meetings with Fenech and Turab Musayev, who represented SOCAR on the Electrogas board. He said he could not recall meeting either man in private meetings.

Opposition MP Karol Aquilina cited an email sent by Musayev, which was also quoted in a September 2020 court hearing, in which the SOCAR representative said that himself and Fenech had met with “Konrad Mizzi and David” and the minister had told them we was working to resolve a tax issue concerning Electrogas.

Mizzi said such issues were handled by the negotiating team, not himself. 

No answers about pre-election meetings

The MP and former minister argued that he had no obligation to say whether he had discussed the power station plans with specific individuals before Labour was elected into government in 2013, because the NAO had said that political parties were not part of its remit.

In the report, the NAO noted that Labour’s pre-election proposal “bore multiple similarities” to the final project undertaken, but said it could not comment on whether the PL had struck a deal on the power station’s technical details before the election or influenced the requirements set by Enemalta, as it was limited by its mandate.

'Ask Keith Schembri'

Mizzi also refused to talk about meetings held at the Office of the Prime Minister to discuss project financing, or to entertain questions about the involvement of former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri in the project.

“That’s not mentioned in the [NAO] report,” Mizzi said. “Ask him.”

Instead of answering questions, Mizzi fired off a series of accusations about Opposition MPs on the committee and said they were violating a Speaker’s ruling about the hearings.

Speaker Anġlu Farrugia has instructed PAC members to act respectfully and follow applicable rules and guidelines when asking questions. The Speaker was roped in after Mizzi walked out of a previous PAC hearing, complaining about being unfairly attacked during questioning.

Throughout Wednesday’s hearing, government members of the PAC – Clayton Bartolo, Jonathan Attard, Alex Muscat and Glenn Bedingfield – remained silent, speaking up only to argue that Fenech Adami and other Opposition MPs were not being fair in the way they asked questions of Mizzi.

Mizzi was kicked out of the Labour Party's parliamentary group in January 2020 following further corruption allegations concerning an Enemalta project in Montenegro. 

He has been testifying before the PAC since last November, having first refused to attend the sittings before then taking up several hearings to deliver an "opening statement". 

He is scheduled to appear before the PAC again next Tuesday.

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