Updated with Polidano reaction below

Construction tycoon Charles Polidano held a private meeting with Prime Minister Robert Abela after he was arrested and questioned over suspected money laundering and corruption. 

Times of Malta has confirmed that Polidano, known as Iċ-Ċaqnu, met with Abela at Auberge de Castille on Tuesday. 

It is understood that the two discussed the pressure Polidano is facing from a fierce competitor whom he blames for tipping off the police. 

A spokesperson for Polidano Group completely avoided commenting on the OPM meeting in reply to questions sent.  Instead, he simply protested Polidano’s innocence and described the police investigation as a “smear campaign”.

Police investigation a 'smear campaign'

The OPM’s chief spokesperson told Times of Malta that the prime minister is requested meetings on a regular basis with investors and company representatives, to discuss their ideas and investment projects, and any potential challenges relative to their investment.

“The meeting you are referring to, which had been requested by Polidano Group representatives a number of months ago, is one of them. The representatives from the mentioned group of companies also invited the prime minister to visit a new investment of theirs in the coming weeks,” he said.

Polidano and his son Gordon were arrested at their homes and taken in for questioning earlier this month and were subsequently released on police bail. 

The police are investigating how Polidano won a lucrative contract in 2014 to carry out works at the freeport for which the company may have overpaid.

Polidano and his son were interrogated again on Thursday and Friday at the police’s Financial Crime Investigation Department. 

Montebello, Polidano deny any wrongdoing

Investigators are looking into a property that was transferred from Polidano to Freeport chief executive Alex Montebello for what they believe is a suspiciously low price. 

It is understood that Montebello has not been reporting for work at the freeport pending the police investigation. 

Both Montebello and Polidano have vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

A spokesperson for Polidano Group said Polidano has not been charged with any offence.

“While he is ready and willing to cooperate with any police investigation, he is anxious that these inquiries should be concluded as quickly as practicably possible so that his reputation will not continue to be tarnished by those with an interest in doing so,” he said.

The spokesperson said that this was “not the first smear campaign to which Polidano has been subjected in recent years”. 

He said he would not be deterred from continuing with its business.   

Montebello’s lawyer Arthur Azzopardi had said: “My client insists this investigation shall lead to the only one conclusion possible, i.e. that he is not guilty of any wrongdoing since he committed no wrongdoing.”

Malta Freeport Terminals Ltd is a private company that runs the trans-shipment operation at Malta Freeport.  It is separate from the Malta Freeport Corporation that is owned by the government and is the authority that regulates the freeport.

Sources privy to the investigation have pointed at suspicions of links between the arrest of Polidano and the recent resignation of the Infrastructure Malta boss

Polidano, 62, is one of the richest men in the country. His Polidano Group is one of the leading construction firms, regularly involved in major national infrastructure projects. 

Sources privy to the investigation have pointed at suspicions of links between the arrest of Polidano and the recent resignation of the Infrastructure Malta boss.

Trustin Farrugia Cann resigned from the post of chief executive of the government’s roads agency after just one month in the job.

He claimed he had resigned to focus on his career as a football referee. Political sources, however, have pointed to a row between Polidano and a rival bidder for a major government contract worth around €50 million.

Charles Polidano replies

In a reaction on Sunday afternoon, Ian Napier, general manager of the Polidano Group said that the assertion that Polidano was questioned by police last Thursday was incorrect.

"The reality is he is cooperating fully with an investigation into a single business dealing and last Friday his lawyers Dr Michael Sciriha and Dr Franco Galea furnished the investigating authorities with documentation to support his steadfast insistence that there has been no wrongdoing on his part."

He added that Polidano – who, he stressed, has not been charged with any offence – had carried out infrastructural work at Malta Freeport Terminals for over 30 years because his company is the leading company to handle such work.

Polidano had established a reputation for quality even beyond Malta’s shores, evidenced by the fact that the company performed projects abroad.

"As one of Malta’s largest employers, Mr Polidano takes his responsibility to his employees very seriously and will not cower to smear campaigns orchestrated by individuals who have an interest in harming his organisation and the livelihoods of his staff.

"Nor will Polidano be deterred from continuing its legitimate business activities in the private or public sector," Mr Napier wrote. 

He said that Polidano was also appealing to the media not to continue to apply two weights and two measures in his regard and respect the presumption of innocence.

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