Infrastructure Minister Austin Gatt has written to the chief executive officer of BWSE, a Danish company that won the contract to upgrade the Delimara power station, demanding an explanation about Danish media claims of corruption.

The letter was sent an hour after Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat met Auditor General Anthony Mifsud and gave him press cuttings of an investigation carried out by the Danish daily business newspaper Borsen, which carried allegations of corrupt dealings by the company in several countries.

"I find this a matter of concern and I think it is appropriate, in the interest of transparency and public accountability that you immediately contact the Auditor General to reply to these remarks," Dr Gatt said.

The Auditor is already investigating the award of the contract following allegations of corruption by the Labour Party.

After the meeting with Mr Mifsud, Dr Muscat, flanked by spokesman Evarist Bartolo, said the investigations by the Danish newspaper showed that BWSE and its Japanese mother company Mitsui were involved in cases of corruption and bribery in order to win contracts.

The newspaper alleged that internal company documents showed that BWSC handed millions of euros to win contracts in countries such as the Philippines, Sri Lanka and the Bahamas.

Dr Muscat said the documents he presented to Mr Mifsud showed a worrying trend, adding that in Malta the company appeared to have employed a similar strategy for it to win the power station contract. In Malta, he alleged, the middle-man was given €4 million in commissions.

Dr Muscat said the newspaper reported that, in 1999, a director of BWSC, Soren Barkholt - the same person to whom Dr Gatt's letter was addressed - had approved a $90,000 bribe to a public officer in the Philippines in connection with a project in Subic Bay.

Dr Muscat said there were at least two employees who uncovered this corruption and who were then sacked.

He said that, according to the newspaper, mother company Mitsui was also implicated in a series of scandals in Russia, Malaysia, Korea, Jordan and Qatar, paying an estimated €700 million in bribes up to 1998.

In China, Dr Muscat said, Mitsui tried bribing a deputy minister offering him €33,000 with the aim of getting information on the cheapest bid submitted for a power station. Over this case, a Mitsui officer was jailed for two years.

In his letter to Mr Barkholt, Dr Gatt referred to the cuttings passed on to the Auditor General for investigation.

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