Trafigura corruption exposed

Trafigura, the Dutch oil company that the Government of Zambia says is” reputable and credible” is neither.

In Malta the company has been banned from tendering for oil supply contracts because of corruption and it is in court.

However in Zambia, apart from supplying oil at very expensive prices Trfigura now owns Puma the company that is retailing the same fuel having bought out BP which had the largest retail dealer network in the country.

Former chairman of state owned oil procurement company Enemalta Mr. Tancredi Tabone  and his adviser Mr. Frank Sammut are in court charged with fraud, bribery and money laundering in connection with commissions they received from Trafigura.

Apart from bribes, the court also heard that a separate private company Island Bunker Oils Limited (BOL) was set up by Tabone and Sammut specifically to ‘drain’ business away from the state corporations bunkering arm.

According to court evidence, Trafigura was awarded its first procurement tender in 2004 even though it was not among the 16 bidders.  It managed to get the award by bribing officials.

The money from the commissions from Trafigura should be channeled to a Swiss bank account.

Mr. Sammut’s task was to secretly inform Trafigura of what Enemalta wanted. This ensured that Trafigura was the favoured supplier.

Sammut would then ensure that the Oil Procurement Committee accepted the Trafigura tender offers, even if the product did not fully match specifications.

For his services Mr Sammut received as much as 70c per tonne of oil sold to Enemalta.

Most of the information given to the police was by George Farrugia, the local agent of Trafigura who was granted a presidential pardon for information.

Along with the original allegations of kick backs on oil tenders to the oil giant Trafigura, the Police also investigated the role played by Island Bunker Oils, and several subsidiary companies which handled the lions share of the bunkering business previously belonging to the state owned Mediterranean offshore Bunkering Company (MOBC).

The police have now asked the magistrate presiding over the case for permission to seek information from the authorities in Gilbraltar and Switzerland on the oil procurement scandal.

Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Cassar told a court how Tim Waters, an official from Trafigura who was in charge of supplies to Malta, had a meeting in London with Frank Sammut during an international fair, and an agreement was reached for him to help Trafigura to submit the best offers to Enemalta.

Mr Cassar said a Swiss bank account was specifically opened for $80,000 in commissions received in eight payments. The funds were divided between Mr Sammut and Mr Tabone.

In a subsequent police statement, Mr Sammut said he also received a further €159,000 in an account in the Royal Bank of Scotland, which he also split with Mr Tabone.

Mr Cassar said that Francis Portelli of Virtu’ Group told the police how Mr Tabone and Mr Sammut were partners in IBOL along with him and Tony Cassar, but their role was kept hidden because of their posts in Enemalta.

In his statement to the police, Mr Sammut said that at MOBC he also received commissions from another company, Totsa, a subsidiary of oil giant TOTAL, which he split with Mr Tabone.

He told the police that for fuel consignments he was paid a commission of $1 per metric tonne, which was given to him by George Farrugia, a State witness who was given a presidential pardon to reveal more information about the scandal.

Mr Sammut said in his statement that the first payment he had received was in the form of a car worth €28,000, a Korando Ssang-Yong, which he gave to his son, Mr Cassar testified.

Minister of Energy Dr. Austin Gatt has also been drawn into the scandal defending the appointment of Mr Tabone by saying that although it was debatable whether a minister should resign over a political appointee who breaches public trust at a time of the appointment Mr Tabone was an upstanding business leader with good credentials.The Minister also ended up in the eye of the storm after it transpired that he had a Swiss bank account which he failed to highlight in the annual declaration of assets ministers are obliged to make.Dr Gatt admitted this was an oversight and said he had inherited the account from his parents. He insisted the account was not active and passed on details of the account to the Police Commissioner.Former Enemalta chairman Tancred Tabone received some $20,000 in cash commissions from rogue oil trader.Money was also exchanged between the two men over lunch meetings but, in a couple of instances, Mr Farrugia paid Mr Tabone with cheques, Assistant Police Commissioner Michael Cassar testified.In police statements, Mr Farrugia said that when Mr Tabone was chairman of Enemalta he would invite him to lunch meetings where the money was exchanged.