Times of Malta

When silence is golden - David Casa

I did not reply to the opinion piece published last week because I felt Martin Scicluna’s mind-numbing arguments spoke for themselves. Besides, I have full confidence in readers to discern between Labour propaganda and independent thought. This week, however, we had the misfortune of being exposed to more of his wisdom. He informed us that he single-handedly exposed the European Parliament’s report on the rule of law in Malta as “flawed”. He accused my colleagues and me of “dragging Malta’s name through the dirt on the world stage”, which makes me quite livid. But that does not compare to how disgusted I am by the reference to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s “poison” and “agenda”. His effort to dehumanise her, precisely in the same manner as those of his ilk in the Office of the Prime Minister did and still do, is nothing short of appalling. He must think that, now that she has been assassinated, the chances of him being taken to task for what he writes are much slimmer. In fact, this week he compared the oil scandal to the revelations in the Panama Papers. In addition, he points to the ministers under a Nationalist government who had Swiss bank accounts. To his credit, he, at least,...

Armed deputy who failed to confront gunman at Florida school resigns

The armed sheriff's deputy assigned to the Florida high school where 17 people were shot dead has resigned rather than face suspension after an internal investigation showed he failed to enter the school to confront the gunman during the attack, the county sheriff said on Thursday. Deputy Scot Peterson, who was on duty and in uniform as the resource officer posted at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was the only law enforcement officer present on February 14 when the rampage started, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. Peterson's actions were caught on video during the massacre, which ranks as the second-deadliest shooting ever at a US public school, carried out by a lone gunman wielding a semiautomatic AR-15-style assault rifle. Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student, was later arrested and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the assault. “What I saw was a deputy arrive at the west side of Building 12, take up a position and he never went in,” Israel said, referring to the building on campus where authorities said the bulk of the shooting occurred. Israel told reporters the shooting in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Parkland lasted six minutes, and...

Announcements - February 23, 2018

AGIUS. On February 17, at Mater Dei Hospital, AMABILE (Paul) of Msida, aged 70, passed away suddenly comforted by the rites of Holy Church and surrounded by his family. He leaves to mourn his great loss his beloved daughter Christine and her husband Patrick, of Australia, his son Luke and his wife Angela, his grandchildren Megan, Mya, Maisie, Jack and Kay, his partner Margaret Bugelli, her son Kenrick and his fiancée Nicole Magri, his sisters Josephine and her husband Anthony Clayton, of England, and Rita and her husband Donald Lacombe, of Alaska, other relatives and friends. The funeral leaves Mater Dei Hospital tomorrow, Saturday, February 24, at 8.30am for Mary Immaculate Mother of the Church, Tal-Ibraġ, where Mass præsente cadavere will be said at 9am, followed by interment at Santa Maria Addolorata Cemetery. Lord, grant him eternal rest. CARABOT. On February 21, at Mater Dei Hospital, ALFRED, aged 64, passed away peacefully comforted by the rites of Holy Church. He leaves to mourn his loss his beloved wife Annemarie, his children Sarah, Nicola and Edward, his brother Philip and his wife Nicole, his sisters Mary Ann and her husband Albert and Sandra and her husband Joe, his...

South Korea regulator flags better deal for cryptocurrency industry

A better deal for South Korea’s cryptocurrency industry might be in the offing as the market regulator changes tack from its tough stance on the virtual coin trade, promising instead to help promote blockchain technology. The regulator said yesterday that it hopes to see South Korea – which has become a hub for cryptocurrency trade – normalise the virtual coin business in a self-regulatory environment. “The whole world is now framing the outline (for cryptocurrency) and therefore (the government) should rather work more on normalisation than increasing regulation,” said Choe Heung-sik, chief of South Korea’s Finance Supervisory Service (FSS), told reporters. The latest news suggests authorities might adopt a lighter regulatory touch, a step change from the justice minister’s warnings in January that the government was considering shutting down local cryptocurrency exchanges, throwing the market into turmoil. FSS has been leading the government’s regulation of cryptocurrency trading as part of a task force. Cryptocurrency operators see Choe’s comments as positive step for the industry’s plans for self-regulation. “Though the government and the industry have not yet reached a full...

New US dollar correspondent bank

The Bank of New York Mellon has been appointed as BNF Bank’s international partner, authorised to provide international funds transfer payment services to US dollar on its behalf. The Bank of New York Mellon is a leading American worldwide banking and financial services institution in New York City, operating in 35 countries in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia-Pacific. In this new agreement, the Bank of New York Mellon shall act as the financial institution that provides services on behalf of BNF Bank plc by facilitating payment transfers in USD and also conducting business transactions, accepting deposits and gathering documents on behalf of the bank. Through the years Malta has become an investment hub, creating new opportunities for businesses. By means of the newly-appointed USD correspondent bank, BNF Bank can continue to satisfy its customers with high-quality services and take the advantage of the commercial relationship between the bank and the Bank of New York Mellon to facilitate foreign currency exchange and payment transfers in USD. Further information can be obtained by contacting BNF Bank’s customer care service on 2260 1000 or...

Building on solid ground - Michael Falzon

The Malta Developers’ Association will be holding its seventh annual general meeting on March 1. Having been involved in its foundation, I think it is about time to look back and see whether the setting up of this association has led to the attainment of its goals. When it was formed, way back in 2010, the construction industry was in the doldrums. Malta was then managing to keep at bay the negative trend in business caused by the recession in Europe and it was perhaps the best moment for the association to be formed. Established developers had the time to stop and think. Until then, every developer hardly discussed the property market with competitors and the slowdown proved to be the right time for developers to cooperate and start lobbying for their economic sector. I still remember when Sandro Chetcuti and another three friends came to see me seeking help to set up the organisation that was later called Malta Developers’ Association, a name that today stuck among all, whether admirers or critics, in all shapes and sizes. I honestly doubted whether such an organisation could be set up. Most developers had a ‘wild west’ mentality (a few still do, unfortunately) little...

Malta facing hefty cut in EU funding

Malta risks losing hundreds of millions of euros in EU funds after 2020 if fresh proposals by Brussels for the upcoming seven-year budget materialise, the Times of Malta is informed. EU leaders, including Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, meet informally in the Belgian capital on Friday to discuss what is technically known as the Multiannual Financial Framework. Observers said that Malta was likely to face an uphill struggle to retain its present favourable position in terms of EU financing. “It is almost a given that Malta will not be able to keep its current level of EU funding for many reasons,” European Union diplomats said. “Since the last agreement on the EU budget (2014-2020), Malta’s economy has continued to prosper and, thus, the island cannot really continue to argue it needs more cohesion funds to catch up with the rest of the member states,” they added. The diplomats felt Malta was not making enough noise in Brussels on the matter which could, eventually, work against it when it came to negotiations. Since its accession to the EU in 2004, Malta has always been treated as a net beneficiary, receiving more funds than it contributed to the budget. However, according to the...

Enforcement action

The article ‘Illegal billboards still stand despite notices going back two years’ (February 20) contains a number of serious inaccuracies which must be clarified. The Times of Malta failed to mention that the pending files included: Those that are still active as the contravener has not yet paid their dues for the enforcement operations that have been carried out. Those that have been removed by the contravener but, as itis practice for the Enforcement Unit, the enforcement file is not closed off immediately as monitoring continues for a number of months to ensure that the removed illegality is notre-installed. Those that are not actually billboards but are adverts related to shops or establishments. Those that have multiple enforcement orders on the same billboard in view of claims of different contraveners. The Planning Authority is baffled how the Times of Malta came to the conclusion that there are 140 illegal billboards with an active pending enforcement. It would have expected this newspaper to verify this before publishing. The Planning Authority embarked on this planned action after the publication of thenew regulations. In the case of billboards, the removal is combined...

Today's front pages: February 23, 2018

Pembroke residents were left stranded after works on an access road stopped before the job was done, the Times of Malta reported. Another story stressed that Malta's economic growth meant it would be getting far less funding from the EU as it could not longer argue that it needed cohesion funds. More soon.  

A timeless love story in Paris

A live screening of the Met Opera’s production of Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème will be held at St James Cavalier Cinema tomorrow at 6.30pm. Arguably one of the world’s most popular operas, this is a passionate and timeless story of love among young artists in Paris. It has a marvellous ability to make a powerful first impression as well as to reveal unsuspected treasures even after dozens of viewings. At first glance, La Bohème is the definitive depiction of the joys and sorrows of love and loss; on closer inspection, it reveals the deep emotional significance hidden in trivial things, such as a bonnet, an old overcoat or a chance meeting with a neighbour, that make up our everyday lives. The Met Opera’s production of La Bohème will be screened live at St James Cavalier Cinema, Valletta, tomorrow at 6.30pm. There will be encore screenings on March 8 at 7pm and on March 25 at 2.30pm. For tickets, visit www.kreattivita.org.

Malta Independent

PN claims Delia ‘never knew’ about Gasol bond issue, denies conflict of interest

The Nationalist Party (PN) has responded to claims surfacing about its leader Adrian Delia and a possible conflict of interest he has, rendering him unable to speak out about the shady Delimara power station deal.In a statement issued this afternoon, the PN said the “deceitful” stories suggesting any conflicts of interest are unfounded, and that nobody could muzzle Delia.The PN called any suggestion otherwise a “malicious fabrication”.Publicly available documentation seen by The Malta Independent shows that the law firm in which Delia is a shareholder, Aequitas Trust and Fiduciary Limited, had been involved in raising finance for the power station’s former lead developer, Gasol, which had eventually sold its stake in the project to the other partners for an undisclosed amount in July 2015 and left the country.Anonymous allegations doing the rounds on Twitter allege that because of this conflict of interest, the words ‘Azerbaijan’, ‘Gasol’ and ‘Socar’ have become taboo for Delia, given his firm’s previous involvement with Gasol.The PN has refuted any assertion that Delia could not speak out about the Delimara deal and went on to explain that the services described when opposition leader was a full-time lawyer are perfectly legitimate and standard.“In Malta there are hundreds of trusts which are according to law, legal and legitimate. Aequitas Trust is just one of them. This trust has one share in each company that owns Tradexec, a company which gives services to Gasol plc among others. Anybody licensed with the MFSA carries out their duties in accordance with this standard practice. Such a licence is granted after a rigorous due diligence process. Aequitas Trust passed this due diligence process like other professional companies.”The statement goes on to say:“The truth is, contrary to the impression that could have been given, Adrian Delia was never on the board of the company Tradexec, which gave its services to raise finance for Gasol, which is why Delia did not know about the bond issue in the name of Gasol”.The statement continued to read that Delia has no conflict, and that nobody would be able to muzzle him from “criticising that which is wrong”.“The proof has already been shown when Delia filed a court case against Vitals, motions in Parliament and called for the resignation of the Police Commissioner”.“Before Adrian Delia entered into politics, he, as a private person, was part of a company of lawyer who offered legitimate and licensed services to several citizens and private companies. Legitimate, honest and licensed work of professionals should never be an excuse to prohibit any citizen from entering politics,” the statement concluded.This newspaper has ascertained that while Delia’s firm was indeed involved in Gasol’s bond issue, the USD23 million in financing was, at least on paper, meant to guarantee loan notes issued by Afrique Energie Corp, a Canadian-registered development company that one of Gasol’s subsidiaries has invested in.  The funds were to be used to purchase gas reserves in West Africa that required development.And as late as February 2015, Aequitas was still involved with Gasol, according to documentation seen by this newspaper, through its services to Tradexec.It must be stressed that The Malta Independent never said or implied that Delia was on the board of Tradexec, but described how Georg Sapiano, Delia’s outgoing law partner at Aequitas, together with the third partner Nicollette Spiteri Bailey, are registered directors, legal representatives and judicial representatives of Tradexec. Tradexec is also registered at the same block of offices as Aequitas, on South Street, Valletta. Despite repeatedly stressing that Delia has no conflict of interest, and that nobody would muzzle the Opposition leader, the statement failed to comment on the Delimara power station deal. The PN, under different leadership, had harshly criticised it due to the secrecy behind the power purchase rate of fuel procured and the involvement of Azerbaijan through Socar, its state fuel company. Gasol, Socar and Siemens were part of the 18-year long Electrogas consortium for the Delimara power station deal.Read today’s editorial on the issue here.Read the original story here.    

Man spared prison after reconciling with victim he attacked

Today saw a rare happy ending to a case of grievous bodily harm as a man, who had a violent falling out with his friend, reconciled with the victim and was spared prison.Jesmond Micallef, 29, of Qormi had been accused of grievously injuring Carmel Tabone at Valletta’s Laboratory Wharf in 2014 following an argument about customs documentation.Tabone had told Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera how on 12 April 2014 he had been working as a security guard at Laboratory Wharf when he had stopped Micallef, who had been driving a trailer. He had not allowed him to leave because Micallef had missing documentation and had asked him to move his vehicle to the side so as not to block traffic. At that point, the accused had alighted from his cabin and punched Tabone in the face, breaking one of his teeth.Medical certificates confirmed the injury, which is deemed grievous at law.Micallef, who opted not to testify in these proceedings, had told police the contrary: that Tabone had attacked him and had to be held back by three officials. He argued that the man’s tooth had already been broken before the altercation and denied punching the security guard.Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera, in her judgment on the matter, observed that the Criminal Code states that a single reliable witness is sufficient evidence if believed by the court. Circumstantial evidence are often more important than direct evidence, said the court, but must be examined thoroughly to ensure they are all unequivocal in their indications and must form an unbroken chain that leads in the same direction.The court observed that it was faced with two diametrically opposed versions of events: one that Tabone was attacked while checking documentation and the accused’s claim that he had been attacked by the official. The difference was that the accused claimed that the incident took place in the presence of several people, while the alleged victim said it had occurred when the men were alone.“Therefore it undoubtedly depends on the credibility of the witnesses and the court must take into account the behaviour, criminal record and character of the witnesses, and whether the testimony is borne out by other evidence in deciding whether they are speaking the truth.”The court observed that Tabone had shown the court his broken tooth and that the injury had been certified by an emergency doctor at the time. The accused had no explanation as to how the complainant had ended up injured and said that despite allegedly being attacked, he had not felt the need to seek medical assistance.In the circumstances, the court said it felt the version of events given by Tabone was more truthful and therefore upheld it. The grievous nature of the injury was also certified by a doctor, noted the court, and this worked in his favour.But the court also observed that the complainant had expressed his willingness to forgive the accused and that the two were now friends again. In view of this, the court said, it did not feel the ideal punishment was imprisonment. Instead, the magistrate handed Micallef a 3 year conditional discharge.It abstained from deciding a request for a protection order due to the fact that the men were now on friendly terms again, deeming the prosecution’s request for a protection order as no longer necessary. Inspector Hubert Cini prosecuted. 

PA Board approves major development in Villa Rosa - Cresta Quay area

The Planning Authority Board has approved a major Villa Rosa-Cresta Quay area development, which will see the construction of parking facilities, hotels and ancillary facilities, commercial areas, multi-ownership holiday accommodation, bungalows and a Language school with accommodation.The board voted 7 in favour and three against.The 48,723 sqm redevelopment project, which was filed by Garnet Investments Ltd back in 2012, will be built over different locations around St George's Bay, St Julian's, and includes the "demolition of all existing buildings forming part of St. George's Bay Hotel, Dolphin House, Moynihan House and Cresta Quay",The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage found that the development does not pose a threat to Villa Rosa and its gardens; and that Moynihan House did not have cultural heritage value.The plans presented starkly contrast what was suggested in the Paceville Master Plan, in fact, Anton Camilleri - of Garnet Investments Ltd. - had, back then, said that what appeared on the master plan was not in line with his proposal.Parliamentary representatives Marthese Portelli (PN) and Clayton Bartolo (PL), who voted in favour of the poject, both called for the Paceville master, which was scrapped following criticism that it was more geared towards developers rather than residents, was completed as soon as possible.PA CEO Johann Buttigieg said that regrettably there was no master plan in place, but the development was following the local plan.Both Portelli and Bartolo also raised concerns over the negative traffic impact the development will undoubtedly have, both during and after construction; with both of them stressing that the planning gain should be extended to the surrounding localities of Pembroke and Swieiqi.The former also called for the introduction of a national audit on the country's cultural heritage, while the latter expressed his disappointment that the facade of Moynihan House will not be preserved or incorporated into the design of the building.Albert Buttigieg raised the serious concerns  regarding the social and physical infrastructural issues, along with the piecemeal approach taking place when it comes to development, especially considering that a master plan that was meant to be implemented is currently on the shelf; and that the 32 storey development at Mercury House has already been approved.When given the floor, the public along with a local councillor from Pembroke, echoed Flimkien Ambjent Ahjar's (FAA) concerns that the development could lead to the irreparable damage of the supposedly protected Ghar Harq Hammiem, Malta's largest underground cave presently believed to be roughly the size of the Mosta dome and dates back to the last ice age.The proposed 100,000 euro earmarked for the cave's protection should anything happen to it during construction was scoffed at by members of the public, with one person remarking that this amount was nothing compared to the profits the development will yield.Architect Ruben Sciortino said that the development has conducted comprehensive studies on the area and insisted that no excavation will take place above the cave.What will the development entail?The Villa Rosa upper gardens will see the construction of an underground car park and [also underground] catering and sanitary facilities, intended to support the use of Villa Rosa and its grounds for weddings, banquets, and similar events. Villa Rosa itself will be restored and used for weddings, banquets and similar events.Part of the development is a six-floor building south of Triq -Ix-Xatt Ta San Gorg, adjacent to the Bay Street complex. It will used as a mixed-use development ranging from a boutique hotel, commercial space, offices and will see multi-ownership hotel accommodation apartments built, with dedicated food and beverage space at ground level.The area in front of the bay will see a 4,247sqm  two-storey commercial building utilised.The valley watercourse area, East of Triq ix-Xatt ta San Gorg, which has a gross floor area of 4,050sqm , is earmarked for a number of two-storey, 3-bedroomed villas with private pools.According to the Case Officer's report, an area in the Villa Rosa grounds adjacent to Bay Street Complex will also see a total gross floor of 1,435sqm built over three floors for retail and office use.Dolphin House and Moynihan House will be demolished and redeveloped into commercial space for food & beverage, office space and a language school.The Cresta Quay zone development involves the development of 2,140sqm footprint of land into a 56-room 4-star hotel including restaurant over four floors below road level, and a kiosk at street level. The layout will allow for the use by the public of a 3m wide strip along the coast, the report read.A number of concerns were raised by persons who reside in the area, including that the excavation works to make space for the underground car parks is not considered as the preservation of the existing garden, that construction at Cresta Quay runs counter to policy given that it is a coastal area etc.The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and the Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee have reviewed the application, having inspected the site. "The proposed works do not pose a threat to the Villa Rosa and its gardens and the Superintendence is favourable to the proposed restoration of the villa.""In reviewing the application, the Superintendence notes that Moynihan House is not formally scheduled by the Planning Authority. Inspection has confirmed that the property has been subject to later interventions and extensive reconstruction, reducing its cultural heritage value."The Environment and Resources Authority "predicted a number of potential impacts on the environment as a result of the proposed development especially in the St. George's Bay Hotel site, and the Dolphin House and Moynihan House site"; while also noting the potential adverse cultural, congestion, and infrastructural impacts of the development.The Case Officer has recommended that the project be approved.

Police lock down part of Brussels amid reports of gunman

Belgian police sealed off part of a Brussels suburb Thursday, warning residents to stay inside amid media reports that an armed man could be at large.Associated Press television images showed armed police officers hiding behind buildings and staking out a rooftop in the Forest neighborhood of the Belgian capital.Masked police, some with automatic weapons, were aiming their guns high at a building near the Place Saint-Denis. A police helicopter flew overhead.Broadcaster RTL quoted Forest mayor Marc-Jean Ghyssels as saying that police "suspect the presence of an armed man." The area was sealed off at around 1230 (1130 GMT) and people were warned to stay in their homes.Police did not immediately respond to requests for details. There was no immediate indication that Thursday's incident is terror-related.A suspect in the deadly Paris attacks in November 2015, Salah Abdeslam, hid in Forest and was caught up in a shootout with police in a nearby apartment.Belgium recently lowered its threat level after almost two years on high alert. In March 2016 suicide bomb attacks on the Brussels airport and an underground station killed 32 people.

Sandro Chetcuti sees no conflict of interest in government planning consultancy role

Malta Developers Association President Sandro Chetcuti says there is “absolutely no conflict of interest” in a €19k government planning consultancy role, which the MDA is aware of. Information provided to this newspaper by the Transport and Infrastructure Ministry on persons of trust shows that Chetcuti is a Policy Consultant with the Parliamentary Secretariat for Planning and the Property Market. This means that he advises PS Chris Agius. The MDA boss has a Scale 3 salary of €37,920 (paid pro-rata for 20 hours service per week), which would mean payment of €18,960, together with an expertise allowance of €10,000, a car allowance of €2,320 and mobile and internet allowance of up to €815 per annum.The ministry also provided a brief description of his day-to-day duties, which are: to attend meetings as required with the PS (or his delegate) in relation to planning and the property market sector; to attend meetings with officials of the office of the PS, any stakeholder, ministry or corporate body; and provide the PS with guidance in relation to the planning and property market sector.The Malta Independent asked Chetcuti whether his role as president of the developer’s lobby conflicted with his new role as government advisor on planning and the property market, whether the MDA was aware of his role, and how long he has held the role. Replying, Chetcuti said: “My appointment as an advisor to the ministry regarding the property market was discussed and approved by the council of Malta Developers Association. My experience within the sector can serve as an asset to any decision maker.  In fact, it is not the first time that I was approached by members of the Opposition party to give advice both on the development sector and the property market. There is absolutely no conflict of interest as I only give advice on what I think is best for the country. Then it is up to the decision maker to decide and implement decisions after taking note of all advice it is given, including, but not only, mine.”

Internet key, suspicious white powder found during ‘intensive search’ at prison

An internet key and “suspicious white powder” have been found during an “intensive search” at Corradino Correctional Facility by two divisions within the Anti Drug Unit.During this “delicate operation”, officers did not find any mobiles or alcohol, however action will be taken against the prisoner found with the internet key.In addition, an investigation will be opened into the powder found in an inmate’s locker.In a press release issued this evening, Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia said that similar searches will continue on a regular basis by prison officials and police officers where need be.“Minister Farrugia will continue working to eradicate illegal substances, prohibited items and abusiveness within the facility.” 

TMID Editorial: Delia and Delimara - Was this really not worth disclosing?

Matters at the Nationalist Party seem to have come to yet another pretty pass, with the business dealings of its leader Adrian Delia once again raising eyebrows, while also weakening the moral authority to speak out against the unbridled behaviour of the government he is supposed to be keeping in check.The news that the law firm in which the Opposition leader is a shareholder in a fiduciary firm that worked on a bond issue for the Delimara power station’s former lead developer Gasol - during the time in which he was active in the company, he only resigned his directorships upon being installed at Dar Centrali - is worrisome.The fact that the firm held the client - well before Adrian Delia had hardly even envisaged a role for himself in politics, let alone that of Opposition Leader - is not the troubling aspect here.Nevertheless this, of course, will provide ample grist for the mill for government acolytes and trolls but we should make one thing clear from the outset: no crime has been committed here and anyone of that particular political stripe would be ill-advised to tread into that minefield.There is no comparing like with like here. There is no comparing this legitimate, yet questionable, fiduciary set-up with the opening of secret companies and trusts in Panama and New Zealand.But while it is true that there was nothing illegal about the firm having had this particular fiduciary relationship, it should also be appreciated that the new post-Panama papers times in which we are living demand new scruples, new levels of accountability and new thresholds of transparency.This is, as they say, a whole new ballgame and it’s called good governance.Having said that, what is troubling is the fact that Delia did not deem it fit to have declared the situation, which constituted a very clear and present conflict of interest given his party’s previous harsh stance on all things related to the ElectroGas project at Delimara.The fact that a law firm in which one holds a stake in turn holds a single share in a company involved in the shady power station deal would not normally be an item on any declaration of assets and, needless to say, that share or his firm’s work with Gasol was not declared.But, as we said, this is a new reality that needs to be grappled with.  Delia himself may not have even have been personally involved in the bond issue, but the law firm in which he is a leading shareholder certainly was.And with Gasol having been the talk of the town between 2013 and 2015, it is very difficult to imagine that the name did not ring a bell in the leader’s mind, or in the minds of any of his fellow associates who may have worked on the project.This was, after all, one of the most talked-about deals the country has seen.  The Delimara power station was the very cornerstone of the Labour Party’s 2013 general election campaign and it has long been the PN’s bête noir.This was, and still is, an issue of such political sensitivity that the Opposition leader’s ignorance of his firm’s involvement, no matter how small, beggars belief.  It would have been far better to have declared this back during his leadership bid instead of having this come out now.In such matters, when there is no culpability but when suspicions and accusations are bound to be raised, full disclosure at the outset is always by far the best policy lest the past comes back to bite you.  And when you fail to do that, your moral authority to take others to task for far graver conduct is eroded piece by piece.And if, on the other hand, Delia had no idea that his firm was dealing with a name like Gasol given the associated political connotations, one wonders how that same person will manage the manifold interests of a political party or of a government for that matter.

Adrian Delia’s legal firm handled bond issue for subsidiary of Electrogas partner company

Opposition leader Adrian Delia has been hit by damning allegations that he has never spoken out against the shady Delimara power station project because of a conflict of interest since the law firm in which he is a shareholder has worked for Gasol, the contentious project’s former lead partner.Publicly available documentation seen by The Malta Independent shows that the law firm in which Delia is a shareholder, Aequitas Trust and Fiduciary Limited, had been involved in raising finance for the power station’s former lead developer, Gasol, which had eventually sold its stake in the project to the other partners for an undisclosed amount in July 2015 and left the country.Anonymous allegations doing the rounds on Twitter allege that because of this conflict of interest, the words ‘Azerbaijan’, ‘Gasol’ and ‘Socar’ have become taboo for Delia, given his firm’s previous involvement with Gasol.It is being claimed that Gasol was “essentially bankrupt” and “needed funding to plough ahead with the project”.This newspaper has, however, ascertained that while Delia’s firm was indeed involved in Gasol’s bond issue, the USD23 million in financing was, at least on paper, meant to guarantee loan notes issued by Afrique Energie Corp, a Canadian-registered development company that one of Gasol’s subsidiaries has invested in.  The funds were to be used to purchase gas reserves in West Africa that required development.And as late as February 2015, Aequitas was still involved with Gasol, according to documentation seen by this newspaper.Later that same year, in July 2015, Gasol had exited the Electrogas consortium claiming that its mission in Malta had been completed, and its shares in the consortium were sold off to the project’s other partners - Azerbaijani state oil and gas company Socar, Siemens and Maltese consortium GEM Holdings.  Gasol had sold off its stake for an undisclosed amount, but one which is assumed to have been worth several millions of euros.The Electrogas transaction essentially consists of an 18-year power and gas purchase agreement between government-owned Enemalta and the privately-owned Electrogas consortium, which, following the exit of Gasol plc in July 2015, is now comprised of Socar, Siemens and the Maltese consortium GEM Holdings, each holding a 33 per cent stake. Layers within layersFollowing the allegations emerging yesterday morning, documents retrieved by this newspaper show that Gasol had raised funds through a bond issue using the services of a “little known broker”, Tradexec, to “‘place’ the bond issue with Gasol’s anonymous funders”.In what appears to be a legitimate fiduciary set-up, Aequitas holds a single share in Tradexec, with the remaining shares being held by a company registered at a Valletta block of offices in South Street where Aequitas is located, called Future Capital Growth Holdings Limited.Documentation shows how the Canadian company in which Gasol holds a stake, Afrique Energie Corp, had engaged Tradexec Ltd for the bond issue, and the publically available document shows the closing off of the bond issue in February 2015.Tradexec is also registered at the same block of offices on South Street, Valletta.  Along with Delia’s former business partner, Georg Sapiano, fellow Aequitas director Nicolette Spiteri Bailey is also listed a shareholder of Tradexec, along with a Belgian national named Cedric Francis Frederic Joinneau.  Sapiano and Spiteri Bailey are listed as directors, legal representatives and judicial representatives of Tradexec, again indicative of a typical fiduciary set-up.Future Capital has one share held by Aequitas, and the remaining shares are held by another company called Myholco United Holding Limited.The layers of secrecy continue until its ultimate ownership reaches the Luxemburg- based Capunited Holdings S.A.R.L., showing that Tradexec appears to be ultimately owned by the Swiss founder of Alpstar UK.  Taking a look at the people or entities behind Capunited, the name Nicolas Bravard appears.   Bravard, a Swiss national, has been lauded as the founder of Alpstar Capital, a European alternative asset manager. Questions sent to PN leader Adrian Delia for reactionA search on previous speeches made by Delia since he entered the political sphere came up empty when researching his statements on the Electrogas consortium and Azerbaijani involvement. It must be said that this came before his time in politics; however he has spoken out on other issues that came before his time such as the Panama Papers scandal.A number of questions emerge from the allegations which have been levelled. This newsroom has attempted to verify the claims based on publically available information, however questions have been sent to opposition leader Adrian Delia so that he may verify, refute or explain the state of affairs. At the time of writing, the questions remain unanswered.See The Malta Independent leader 

MCAST strike: College says it is offering best ever collective agreement to lecturers

MCAST said today that its latest proposal to MUT would see college lecturers’ salaries exceed those of Junior College lecturers by 2019.Speaking at a press conference on Thursday afternoon, MCAST president Silvio De Bono said the the board believes in total permeability between lecturers at MCAST and other post-secondary institutions. “We are offering more than Junior College, so why are we not sitting round the table and improving lecturer’s conditions?” he asked.Earlier, the Malta Union of Teachers said it would not be accepting MCAST’s latest offer since the union did not agree that lecturers should be divided in different groups, creating second and third class lectures.The union said under the college’s new proposals, new lecturers would be paid more than those who have worker at MCAST for a number of years. Asked if this was true, Debono said this would only be the case if salary structure was mirrored exactly to that of Junior College.“MUT had stated that they wanted MCAST staff conditions to be the same as those at Junior College. However, had we done that, which we did offer as option number one, a considerable number of lectures at MCAST would not have qualified for these higher salaries. This is due to the nature of MCAST and its ethos, which is a vocational institution, and therefore a considerable number of lecturers do not qualify for the same salaries as those who teach at Junior College,” DeBono explained.The president made it clear that option two was a fairer proposal and “that this is the best collective agreement ever presented to lecturers since MCAST’s inception”.In option two, MCAST lecturers, irrespective of qualifications, are being offered the same salary as Junior College lecturers with all levels surpassing this by 2019. This option was also rejected by MUT.Option two sees salary increases: for example in a Senior Lecturer II earning €38,453 by 2019 compared to their current €33,052, which is higher than Junior College’s 2018 salary of €37,624.Lecturers are currently receiving €27,176; option two proposes an increase to €30,809 by 2019, which is higher compared to Junior College 2018 salary of€ 37,624.The proposal also includes increasing he Work Resource Allowance from €450 per annum to €1,000 per annum, and introducing an Industry Allowance of €1,000.The teaching loads (hours) would go down form 19 hours week to 17 hours for the grades of Senior Lecturers and 18 for Lecturers.The pay for Additional Duties would increase from €23.29 an hour to €26 an hour.De Bono said MUT wanted more than the proposal offered but that the proposals MCAST has presented are very close to those that MUT requested.De Bono said the board was willing to meet MUT at any moment to reach an agreement.“Our scope is not to cause division but to improve staff conditions and secure student wellbeing in closing this collective agreement.”He appealed to MUT to return to negotiating table, adding that he had full hope and trust in the leadership of MUT and that an agreement would be reached.

PA Board approves MIA master plan; 3 new buildings and extensions to be constructed

The Planning Authority Board has approved the master plan for The Malta International Airport, which will see the construction of three blocks roughly the same height as Skyparks, along with several extensions to the current the arrival and departure terminals.11 board members voted in favour while one voted against.Parliamentary Secretary Silvio Schembri, who is from Luqa, was among those who made interventions when the floor was given to the public; and told the PA board that while most of the country was in favour of development, there was a “a lack of corporate social responsibility”.He said that MIA should employ measures to counter the negative effects on surrounding communities and introduce initiatives to improve the embellishment of the locality.AD chairman Carmel Capacardo echoed this sentiment, telling the board that there was no consultation with the locality of Gudja, which is just a stone’s throw away from the airport. He also raised concerns that there was a particular emphasis on the commercial activities which are related to the core functioning of the airport, especially with the move increase air traffic to night and waive such costs during construction, which he explained would drastically increase the noise pollution in the area.PA CEO Johann Buttigieg revealed that a large amount of the planning gain from the development, which he said amounts to more than €4 million, will be distributed equally to the surrounding local councils, which are Luqa, Safi, Kirkop, Gudja, Mqabba, Zurrieq and Ghaxaq.  What does the master plan entail?The site, having an area of approximately 173,000m² consists of the Malta International Airport (MIA) grounds in Vjal l-Avjazzjoni in Luqa. The site falls within the confined boundary of the previously approved Master Plan for the MIA issued on 31st July 1997.In the Project Description Report submitted originally with this application on 10th November 2010, the architect outlined that the fundamental basis of the concept outlines four major uses: Commercial and office units, which, as income-generating uses, will facilitate future upgrading and financing; Accommodation relating to the establishment of a business park within the confines of the site; Leisure and entertainment facilities; Large-scale car parking provision.The Case Officer’s report for the master plan read that “this new Master Plan includes an overall strategy for the overall area, taking into consideration the land resources available and today’s needs and uses related to the airport operations and other indirect operations which are envisaged to increase employment in this area, together with offering amenity uses for tourist and locals from different perspectives”The overall development consists of a number of blocks. Three blocks in the immediate area of the existing Skyparks (Block A), called Blocks B, C & E, will have a mixture of uses ranging from a showroom, catering, retail, office and a hotel use. A building (Block B), which will be the same height as the Skyparks buildings, will house a mixture of retail and offices. Another building (Block C) will replace the existing soft landscaped area and the car park adjacent to Skyparks, and will be around 8 metres higher than the building; which will house offices and a hotel.The third building, Block E according to the plans, will replace the existing Mc Donald’s outlet, drive-through and car park. This building is proposed to have a showroom together with offices.According to the plans, the area dubbed as Block D will consist of the relocation of the petrol station due to introduction of the aforementioned blocks. The petrol station is still being proposed and will be situated adjacent to the present open car parking area dedicated to coaches, but it will be directly accessible from the main road leading to Kirkop.The plan also envisages certain protrusions onto the existing main carpark from the airport. The architect has identified the use of this building as a ‘supermarket’, but the use will be left as a reserved matter for further studies when the relative application will be submitted and assessed. Block H will consist of the front extension to the Terminal Building and will consist of Terminal Facilities; while Block J will be use for commercial purposes. Block L is an extension of the current departure and arrival terminals.While Skyparks was phase 1, Blocks B-D are labelled as phase 2, Blocks E-J are listed as phase 3, and Block L is listed as phase 4. Phase 5 will consist of landscaping. Aside from this master plan, the Planning Authority has already granted a permit for the demolition of an existing car-park and buildings (housing the police station at the airport), and construction of a multi-storey public car-park within airport perimeter to accommodate a total of 1,396 vehicle parking spaces.


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Follow Up 22.02.18

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