Valletta - Testifying in the case against former Mimcol CEO Mario Mizzi, former finance minister Tonio Fenech claimed the EU had insisted Malta should close down four facilities related to the ship building industry and jobs were only safeguarded when the government embarked on a privatisation process. People working at the shipbuilding facility did not lose their jobs because the ongoing privatisation process had temporarily appeased the European Union, which was breathing down Malta’s neck to close down the facility, former Finance Minister Tonio Fenech, told a court today. Taking the witness stand against former Mimcol CEO Mario Mizzi, Fenech explained he had received an anonymous letter claiming the Privatisation Unit was compromised and was biased towards foreign investors. Mizzi is facing charges of trading in influence during the privatisation process of the super-yacht facility.
It is claimed he demanded UK-based privatisation expert, Sue Hall, to downgrade a bidder’s scores to under the 50% mark required to remain in the running for the tender. The bid was at the end awarded to Palumbo. “I was also warned by OPM official Leonard Callus to keep the bidding process under scrutiny due to such allegations. When I met the PU members I sensed they were ready to resign if I told them I had lost my faith in them. However such allegations are common during any bidding process and I did not lose my faith in the PU”, the former finance Minister said. He explained how most allegations concerning bidding processes are proven to be unfounded and mostly stem from hidden agendas. None of the members on the PU had owed up to having been in contact with any of the bidders.
Asked if there was any communication between him and former Mimcol chairman Ivan Falzon, the former minister replied Falzon had attended the same as the members of the PU. “As a minister you only get involved if the PU calls for your advise on particularly serious matters,” Tonio Fenech said. The European Union had called on the PN administration to close the super-yacht facility, the shipbuilding, the Manoel Island, and the Marsa facilities but the government had instead embarked on a privatisation process. “The facilities were kept in operation, saving a lot of jobs simply due to the privatisation process,” the witness insisted.