Senior executives at global energy company Total told their Maltese agents in 2011 that they were not interested in doing business unless their team included George Farrugia, the oil trader at the heart of the Enemalta oil procurement scandal.

It was made plain that without George Farrugia, there would be no deal

The information sheds new light on Mr Farrugia’s relationship with international oil companies tendering for Enemalta’s contracts.

Following a police investigation into allegations of kickbacks paid on Enemalta tenders won by Dutch oil company Trafigura in 2004, Mr Farrugia was granted a presidential pardon to provide evidence against others allegedly involved in the scandal.

Several arrests have been made but there has been little information on the role of international oil firms, which have so far failed to make any substantive statements.

Total’s resistance to severing links with Mr Farrugia emerged during a series of meetings that the Farrugia brothers, owners of the John’s Group, had with representatives from the French commodities giant in Geneva, towards the end of 2010.

Earlier that year, the John’s Group directors suspected that their brother, George, had been siphoning off business from their oil trading company Powerplan – which he managed – into his own company Aikon.

They commissioned an investigation which included an IT audit that scoured the business computers used by Mr Farrugia and his wife, and found the couple had been diverting into Aikon Ltd the agents fees and commission owed to Powerplan.

Powerplan had exclusivity agreements with both Total and Trafigura which legitimately entitled the company to a commission of $1 per metric tonne of oil sold to Enemalta and other Maltese clients that deal in oil products.

Armed with evidence, a delegation from John’s Group travelled to Geneva in September 2010 to explain that George Farrugia had been kicked out of the company.

During the first meeting, in which Total was represented by middle managers, the delegation was told Mr Farrugia had contacted the Geneva offices to inform them Powerplan had a new fax number and that any new correspondence should be channelled through this contact.

The brothers, however, explained that the company’s fax number had not been changed and that Mr Farrugia was no longer in a position to correspond with them.

A second meeting was held in Geneva on September 15, 2010. This time, according to the investigative audit they had commissioned, the meeting was with Jan Iversen, the general manager of Total’s oil trading arm Totsa, and the company’s lawyer Claude Casset.

The Maltese businessmen confronted them with evidence showing Mr Farrugia was “responsible for falsifying documents” in relation to a particular deal involving Total, according to the investigative report. There was no reaction.

However, in a third meeting with Mr Iversen and Mr Casset it was made clear that without Mr Farrugia, there would be no deal.

John’s Group were represented by lawyer Manuel Mallia (who has since become a Labour candidate) for this third meeting, according to the report.

“At the outset, the Totsa (Total’s subsidiary) representatives made it clear that without the inclusion of George Farrugia within Powerplan Limited, Totsa would not consider the extension of the agreement between the interested parties,” the report stated.

According to the audit report, the Total representatives did not deny they had been paying Mr Farrugia directly around €1,500 a month, on top of the commission owed according to the agent’s contracts.

Questions sent to the Total group about the case remained unanswered at the time of going to print.

mmicallef@timesofmalta.com

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