OPM kept no records of meetings with murder suspect Yorgen Fenech

The Office of the Prime Minister did not keep records of meetings Joseph Muscat held with murder suspect Yorgen Fenech at Auberge de Castile during his term in office, nor any minutes of meetings held from 2013 to 2017 between government officials and Yorgen Fenech, who is accused of complicity in organising and financing the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Through a Freedom of Information request for information on meetings Yorgen Fenech held at the Office of the Prime Minister, the Foundation learned that Fenech met with government officials and staff members at the Auberge de Castile, seat of the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta, at least 26 times from 16 October 2013 to 24 March 2017. According to an official response to a Freedom of Information request, several of the meetings were over an hour long and at least one meeting lasted almost three hours.

The response from the OPM did not include any information about meetings Fenech had with Joseph Muscat during his tenure as prime minister, nor any information at all about meetings Fenech had at the Prime Minister’s office after 24 March 2017. A follow up complaint was filed requesting information about meetings held from 25 March 2017 to 18 November 2019, the day before Yorgen Fenech was arrested, and about meetings Fenech had with Joseph Muscat during his two terms as Prime Minister.

The Principal Permanent Secretary replied “no additional information is available at this Public Authority, besides that already published in the original reply.” The Principal Permanent Secretary Office is the official contact point for Freedom of Information requests relating to the Office of the Prime Minister.

In reply to separate Freedom of Information requests for the agenda and minutes of the meetings Fenech held with specified OPM officials and staff members, and the names and designations of any other individuals who were present at any point during those meetings, the Principal Permanent Secretary replied “this Public Authority does not hold the requested documents.”

Of the 26 known meetings Fenech had at OPM from 16 October 2013 to 24 March 2017, 5 were with Keith Schembri, Chief of Staff at the Office of the Prime Minister during Joseph Muscat’s tenure; 19 meetings were with Konrad Mizzi, former Minister of Health and Energy, and responsible for public-private partnerships; 1 with Michael Farrugia, formerly Minister of Home Affairs and National Security, and previously secretary for planning; and 1 meeting with Lindsey Gambin, an aide to Konrad Mizzi.

Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi have both been implicated in corruption involving Fenech and his secret company, 17 Black: the Electrogas project in Malta and Enemalta’s acquisition of the Mozura wind energy farm in Montenegro. On the day of his meeting with Yorgen Fenech, Michael Farrugia ordered the Planning Authority to allow high-rise developments in Mrieħel. The decision enabled the construction of a high rise project by partners in the Electrogas project: Gasan Group and Tumas Group, Yorgen Fenech’s family company.

Documenting meetings, including minutes of discussions and decisions is in the interests of transparency, accountability and good governance. The Office of the Prime Minister’s failure to keep proper records of the meetings with Yorgen Fenech raises our concern that this was a deliberate act of omission.