The director of Malta’s fisheries department, Andreina Fenech Farrugia, has been suspended following allegations that she demanded money from a Spanish tuna operator.
Environment Minister Jose Herrera confirmed with Malta Today that he had suspended the official after Spanish news outlet El Confidential published leaked phone intercepts by the Spanish authorities allegedly showing how Farrugia asked Spanish bluefin tuna kingpin José Fuentes García for payment.
Herrera said Farrugia would be replaced by an acting head, with Times of Malta saying that the director would be replaced later today.
In the transcripts, Farrugia tells Fuentes: “I am in Bulgaria just for you. You have to pay me, because I have a meeting with the [director] general of Brussels”.
According to the documents, the conversation took place on 20 June 2018.
At the time, EU fisheries heads were meeting under the auspices of Bulgaria’s EU Council presidency.
Fuentes leads a multinational empire comprising of more than 40 different companies.
Grupo Fuentes is the world’s largest seller of Atlantic bluefin tuna.
The company has a Maltese subsidiary firm, Mare Blu Fishing.
Spanish authorities investigated suspicions that Malta helped the Fuentes Group import undeclared tuna, bypassing quota restrictions. It is believed that the illegal trade reached up to €25 million.
Original article found on The Malta Independent