Jacob Borg charts the notable events in Labour’s march towards building a new power station, in light of last week’s revelation that the mystery company 17 Black is owned by power station businessman Yorgen Fenech.
June 2008 – Joseph Muscat elected PL leader, Keith Schembri energy group chairman
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is elected as Labour leader.
His close associate Keith Schembri is appointed as chairman of the Labour Party’s working group on energy.
2009 – Presenting a plan
Electrogas shareholder Paul Apap Bologna presents a proposal to the PN government for the building of a new power station.
Former Electrogas shareholders Gasol are mentioned in the presentation, along with Maltese investors comprising a “diverse group of Maltese citizens and prominent business families”.
September 2012 – Konrad Mizzi enters the scene
Konrad Mizzi publicly enters the scene as a Labour spokesman for energy. He tells the Times of Malta in an interview that he is working on the Labour Party’s energy policy.
“We have a roadmap,” Dr Mizzi says.
January 2013 – Testing the waters
Labour had already “tested the waters” and received a “positive response” vis-à-vis potential investment for a power station project, Mizzi says.
Mr Apap Bologna, along with 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech and fellow Electrogas partner Mark Gasan, last month all denied ever having any meetings with Labour officials about their energy plan prior to the March 2013 election.
March 2013 – A landslide to Panama
March 9 sees the Labour party return to power in a landslide victory.
Shortly afterwards, OPM consultants Nexia BT begin the process to incorporate three Panama companies, using the services of Mossack Fonseca, the firm at the heart of the Panama Papers leak.
Two of these companies, Tillgate and Hearnville, would eventually be owned by Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.
April 2013 – Brian Tonna placed on selection committee
A call for expressions of interest is issued by Enemalta for the power station project, bypassing the Department of Contracts. Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi says the expression of interest route was taken to expedite the process.
Nexia BT managing partner Brian Tonna is appointed on Enemalta’s selection committee.
October 2013 – Shell, Gazprom and Edison out, Electrogas in
Major players like Shell, Gazprom and Edison have their bids rejected, as the Electrogas consortium is announced as Enemalta’s preferred bidders.
March 2014 – Ain’t no stopping us
The Planning Authority chairman reads out a letter during a public hearing on the power station project, in which Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says that even if a positive planning decision for the power station project is appealed, works will go ahead regardless.
April 2015 – Deal sealed
The government signs power purchase and gas supply agreements with Electrogas.
According to leaked business plan extracts drawn up by Nexia BT, Electrogas will receive revenues of €3.9 billion over a 19-year period.
June 2015 – Enter Tillgate and Hearnville
The Times of Malta reveals the existence of a secret €88 million government bank guarantee to cover a massive BOV loan taken by Electrogas.
During the same period, Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri transfer shares in their Panama companies to trusts set up for them by Nexia BT in New Zealand.
That same month, an account for 17 Black at Noor Bank is set up.
July 2015 – $200,000 to 17 Black
The local agent behind the LNG tanker wires $200,000 to 17 Black.
The purpose of the transaction was for “manpower in Qatar”, yet financial investigators in America say 17 Black is a shell company, meaning it has no employees or meaningful presence.
August 2015 – Guarantee shoots up to €360 million
The State guarantee shoots up to €360 million to cover a €450 million loan taken out by Electrogas. Dr Mizzi says the temporary guarantee will be in place for 22 months.
November 2015 – More funds wired to 17 Black
Azerbaijani national Rufat Baratzada wires a total of $1.4 million in two transactions to 17 Black. American financial investigators deem this to be “suspicious activity” between shell companies.
The Daphne Project reveals this week that Mr Baratzada works as a security guard on a construction site on Azerbaijan.
December 2015 – Mizzi and Schembri ‘target’ 17 Black
Nexia BT partner Karl Cini sends an e-mail to Mossack Fonseca providing information about the payments that will be made to Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri’s Panama companies.
The Dubai company 17 Black is named as a “target client” of the Panama firms meaning it will be a source of income for the offshore shell companies.
Another Dubai company called Macbridge is also named as a “target client”.
The e-mail says €150,000 will be paid in monthly instalments to both Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri’s Panama companies. The total income from 17 Black and Macbridge is put at $2 million in the leaked e-mail.
February 2016 – Banking on the Bahamas
After agreeing to pay $9,000 to open up the Bahamas bank accounts that would receive the 17 Black and Macbridge payments, Mossack Fonseca sends Nexia BT bank account opening forms requiring Mr Schembri and Dr Mizzi’s signatures.
Efforts to open these Bahamas accounts stop abruptly once assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia breaks the Panama news on her blog.
April 2016 – Mizzi loses energy portfolio, but not power
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat “strips” Dr Mizzi of his energy and health portfolios, in response to growing pressure over the Panama scandal. Despite losing the energy portfolio, the Prime Minister keeps Dr Mizzi in charge of seeing through “the implementation of our energy plans”.
The Prime Minister says no action was taken against Mr Schembri because “he is not a political figure and he enjoys my trust.”
Prior to the reshuffle, Police Commissioner Michael Cassar goes out on sick leave and then resigns after receiving a formal request from the FIAU to investigate Mr Schembri and Dr Mizzi.
February 2017 – 17 Black mentioned on blog
The Dubai company 17 Black is publically mentioned on Daphne Caruana Galizia’s blog.
A month later, 17 Black’s name is changed to Wings Development.
March 2017 – No need to investigate
Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar reiterates there is no need to open up an investigation into Mr Schembri and Dr Mizzi.
In the meantime, the FIAU is compiling a report into all of Dr Mizzi’s energy deals.
May 2017 – Loan guarantee secretly extended
The €360 million loan guarantee given to Electrogas is secretly extended on the eve of the election, after Electrogas failed to secure long-term funding by the stipulated deadline.
The Malta Independent publishes a story based on leaked extracts from the Konrad Mizzi FIAU report. Schembri denies any knowledge of the company, as does Dr Mizzi.
February 2018 – Latvia calling
The FIAU receives transaction information from Latvia about 17 Black, in connection to the $1.4 million transfer from Rufat Bartzada.
This information, together with a comprehensive report into Dr Mizzi’s energy deals, is submitted to the police after that. Yorgen Fenech is identified as 17 Black’s owner in this report.
September 2018 – Freeze!
17 Black’s account at Noor Bankis frozen.
Financial and law enforcement agencies in the United Arab Emirates are examining the company’s activities. UAE authorities vow to cooperate with their Maltese counterparts.
October 2018 – Question time
The Daphne Project sends out questions to all those linked to 17 Black, including to the Prime Minister.
In the weeks that follow, the project faces attempts to discredit its work.
November 2018 – No action
Fielding questions from the press following the 17 Black revelations, the Prime Minister says he will not be taking any action against Mr Schembri and Dr Mizzi until inquiries are completed.
A day before the Prime Minister’s comments, his lawyer Pawlu Lia continues to forge ahead with an appeal to halt a magisterial inquiry into 17 Black requested by former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil.
Judge Antonio Mizzi adjourns the appeal hearing until after his retirement.
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