Konrad Mizzi entertained discussions with Tumas business magnate Yorgen Fenech about a planned €80 million project to relocate the ITS campus to Smart City, Times of Malta is informed.

Fenech was leaked detailed plans about the relocation of Pembroke’s Institute of Tourism Studies before it was put up for tender. The businessman and power station investor was also leaked confidential information on various other ventures spearheaded by Mizzi, the former energy and tourism minister.

He was angling for a €5 million cut to help an interested bidder win the €80 million tender, which included construction of a hotel being built ostensibly to help tourism students “practise”. After the planned project hit delays, Fenech contacted Mizzi in March 2019, saying “Let’s do this bloody ITS my friend”.

The minister told Fenech they could get things moving with “Aron”, a reference to Mizzi’s lawyer at the time, Aron Mifsud Bonnici. When Fenech asked the minister what he meant by that, Mizzi replied: “Aron about the project”.  Fenech told the minister he had long been prepared but would speak to him [Aron].

“Look forward,” Mizzi replied, proposing he, Fenech and “Aron” should meet up for a meal. He also assured Fenech that he loves him “lots and lots”.

Fenech in turn told the minister, who at the time was laying the groundwork for an unlikely Labour leadership bid, that he would always stick by his side.

The conversation took place four months after Fenech was linked to 17 Black, the once-secret company that, according to a leaked e-mail, was to make hefty payments to Mizzi’s Panama company.

'Incorrect assumptions'

Contacted for comment by Times of Malta about the references to the ITS project in his chats with Fenech, Mizzi said: “You are making incorrect assumptions about the topic in question. Your assertions about the matter are incorrect and baseless. No discussions were held on the matter you allege.”

In follow-up questions, the former minister failed to clarify what other ITS project he could have been referring to in his chat with Fenech.

Mizzi has twice been interrogated by police about his chats with Fenech over possible trading in influence. No further action has been taken by the police.

Mifsud Bonnici told Times of Malta he is not privy to the communication between Mizzi and Fenech. He said no discussions with “interested parties” were ever held in his presence, and neither was a meeting ever suggested to him.

The ITS campus relocation, made necessary after the tourism school was kicked out of its St Julian’s campus to make way for a mega-development by Silvio Debono, was roundly criticised by the Auditor General in a report last year.

It cost taxpayers €2 million to temporarily relocate the campus to Luqa, with the Auditor General saying this was required to mitigate the failure to prioritise the relocation over the disposal of the St Julian’s premises.

Although the relocation was officially being handled by Projects Malta, Mizzi’s close associate David Galea was externally contracted by this government agency as “overall projects manager”.

Mifsud Bonnici was a Projects Malta director between 2014 and 2015 and its board secretary between 2014 and 2018.

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