The Labour Party has had a cosy relationship with Azerbaijan for a long time. Malta is considered by Azerbaijani oligarchs as one of the “provinces” of Azerbaijan according to an extensive report into how Azerbaijan uses “caviar diplomacy” to buy the influence of Western politicians.
Joe Debono Grech, a long time Labour Party MP, and former minister had worked hard to improve Azerbaijan’s image in the Council of Europe in spite of its documented abuse of human rights, harsh suppression of press freedom and rampant corruption.
Anġlu Farrugia, currently speaker of the Maltese Parliament observed many elections in Azerbaijan and always spoke highly positively about them, ignoring documented electoral fraud and gross human rights violations.
In December 2014, Prime Minister Dr Joseph Muscat, his then chief of staff Keith Schembri, then head of government communications Kurt Farrugia and Dr Konrad Mizzi, who was at the time the minister responsible for energy, paid a furtive visit to Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijan visit was a secret until just hours before Dr Muscat’s departure: it was only revealed by The Sunday Times of Malta that same day. The government then issued a very brief statement, stating that “Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Minister for Energy and Health Konrad Mizzi left Malta today afternoon for an official visit to Azerbaijan. They are expected to hold official talks on energy and commerce, as well as discussions on diplomatic relations between the two countries.”
Normally these visits are announced well in advance and press organisations are invited to send representatives to accompany the official delegation to report on the the visit. The delegation would include diplomats, including Malta’s ambassador to the country where applicable, and civil servants.
A deal for fuel supply for the power station was struck. SOCAR – the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic was awarded an 18 year exclusivity agreement for the supply of LNG, which fuels the new power station.
The SOCAR deal is highly irregular on many levels. The National Audit Office (NAO) questioned the decision to go for a long term agreement with Azerbaijan’s SOCAR to deliver the country’s energy needs. “Despite requests for documentation in support of the options identified by Enemalta, the NAO was not provided with evidence of analysis undertaken prior to the commitment to procure power and gas from one supplier”.
A whistleblower passed on around 680,000 documents from the Electrogas consortium behind the Delimara Power Station to the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed by a car bomb. She died before being able to publish any findings from the leak, but her unfinished work was continued by the Daphne Project. The leaks contained pricing information and contracts. An analysis by international experts showed that the Maltese taxpayer was losing money “hand over fist” thanks to this deal.
You can read more about the analysis that shows how the Maltese taxpayer is losing several millions through this deal here.
SOCAR also forms part of the ElectroGas consortium that won the bid for the Delimara power station project. The ElectroGas consortium was selected to build and operate the LNG power station in Delimara back in October 2013, with a deal eventually signed in April 2015. Yorgen Fenech, who it is alleged was one of the masterminds behind the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, was a director. The NAO found a number of shortcomings and irregularities in the tendering process.
The last few days proved what was clear from day one – that the whole power station project is an infinite swamp of corruption and crime, one so vile that it claimed the innocent life of a journalist.
Now is the time to find out why Muscat, Schembri, Mizzi and Farrugia were keen to keep their visit to Azerbaijan that day secret, why they did not want any witnesses around them, and whether any of them are benefiting from the deal.