The public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia continues on Wednesday.
Energy Minister Michael Farrugia and engineer James camenzuli are due to testify in today’s sitting.
In the previous sitting two former Projects Malta officials cast doubt on Finance Minister Edward Scicluna’s claim that he was not privy to the entity’s workings.
The public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is tasked with, amongst other things, determining whether the State did all it could to prevent the murder from happening.
Caruana Galizia was murdered in a car bomb just outside her Bidnija home on 16 October 2017. Three men, George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat, have been charged with carrying out the assassination, while Yorgen Fenech is charged with masterminding the murder.
Melvin Theuma, who acted as a middleman between Fenech and the three killers, was granted a presidential pardon last year to tell all.
The inquiry is led by retired judge Michael Mallia, and includes former chief justice Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro.
Follow live proceedings of today’s session below:
10:52 Minister Michael Farrugia does not appear to have arrived. The inquiry board gives a 10-minute recess.
10:51 He said that he was part of the evaluation committee that handled the bidding process, as a member. He steps off the stand.
10:48 Camenzuli: “No.”
10:48 Comodini Cachia says that Manuel Castagna and Robert Borg were to make the financial analysis. Castagna was a partner at Nexia BT and Borg the accountant of the GWU, she points out. “Were you aware of this?”
10:42 Comodini Cachia asks whether he knew that Joseph Muscat had already met with Shaukat Ali before the bidding process. The witness says he did not know.
10:42 Lawyer Pawlu Lia loudly objects to questions about when Camenzuli found out, as the witness had already said that he didn’t know. The inquiry board says he has no reason to raise his voice. “These questions have no connection to the scope of the inquiry,” Lia says, adding it is not fair on the witness.
10:39 Comodini Cachia asks whether he was aware of the fact that Aaron Mifsud Bonnici was also lawyer to Konrad Mizzi and had other roles in the project. “I don’t look at these things,” Camenzuli replies.
10:39 Camenzuli: “I passed them on to Projects Malta, to John Valenzia who was in charge of administration and to the chairman WIlliam Wait. Aaron Mifsud Bonnici was the secretary of the board…”
10:37 Said Pullicino says he is not convinced. “You aren’t giving us much information,” remarks Judge Abigail Lofaro.
10:36 Camenzuli is asked whether he had erased all his emails. “I don’t have emails,” he replies. The project was a presentation to the board, he says.
10:35 Comodini Cachia points out that he was on the evaluation committee. “I don’t have a copy and there was also an non-disclosure agreement,” he adds.
10:34 He is asked whether they had checked who the Oxley Group Ultimate Beneficial Owner is. “I don’t remember,” Camenzuli replies. He adds that he no longer has access to the report and is no longer at Projects Malta.
10:33 Camenzuli: “We had PWC and Oxley.”
10:32 Said Pullicino presses the witness on whether they had checked if the companies existed.
10:32 Camenzuli: “They went deep into the financial declarations and regarding feasibility had checked how much the government was paying now for bed spaces and concluded that a lower price and more bed spaces would be available.”
10:30 Comodini Cachia asks who carried out the financial analysis of the bids. “Had they also carried out financial due diligence?”
10:30 “Important things,” points out chief justice emeritus Said Pullicino, “like the bid bond”. The witness agrees.
10:29 Camenzuli: “As I said, they were opened in front of the notary and things were found missing.”
10:28 Comodini Cachia: “But what kind of evaluation was made?”
10:28 Camenzuli: “Our remit was to receive the bids and evaluate them.”
10:28 Comodini Cachia asks him about the three hospitals bids. The other non-compliant bids were by Image Hospitals and BSB Investments. Had they looked into these companies, asks the lawyer. “Did you verify whether they were fake brands?”
10:25 Therese Comodini Cachia asks him about the evaluation committee, including for how long had it been working. Camenzuli doesn’t recall the exact dates. But in March 2015 he was part of it.
10:22 The finance ministry was not involved in any way in the evaluation, he said. The other bidders did not appeal, he adds, answering a question from the Board. Asked about the share capital of VGH, he said around €1,200, but Oxely Group was making good for everything else, given the guarantees.
10:21 Camenzuli says VGH had the backing of various foreign banks for 70% of their investment. “We did what was required of us from our remit,” he said.
Camenzuli cannot recall who the shareholders of Oxley were. Detailed information was included in the bid. “Our recommendation was that the preferred bidder was VGH, where the government could tkae the negotiations to the next stage.”
10:18 The RFP process had to declare a preferred bidder. “I was chairman of the board, so the bids entered Projects Malta. We had a notary (Marco Burlo) open the bids in the presence of the evaluating committee. The notary made a report which was annexed to that of the committee. Then as a board we continued to meet, around 10 times, to evaluate the bids. There were 3 bids.”
Burlo’s report found two of the bids are non-compliant due to lack of bid bonds, insufficient copies etc. The remaining bid was VGH’s. “We decided that it was a very comprehensive bid. Two board members dealt with the financial issue, but none of the board had medical expertise; so Charles Grixti was assigned by Projects Malta to help.”
Camenzuli says the RFP said that the bidders had to give evidence of their medical and financial knowledge. “VGH gave a solid and concrete basis for their bid on the strength of three letters of comfort. We had black on white, who would make good for them. Their financial experts were PWC.”
Camenzuli said VGH was affiliated to several other companies. “This was a design and build and operate project. They had appointed Healey, an American design company. On the financial front, the UBO was Oxley Group – a strong company and healthcare investor.”
10:06 Questions turn to the Vitals deal. The files relating to the hospitals concession are in the possession of Projects Malta, he confirms. He says the decision for the PPP was already taken by the time he took up his role. “I was part of the evaluation board, not with Projects Malta at the time of the Vitals deal,” he says. He was appointed a member of the board. “Our remit was to evaluate the bids on the concession according to the RFP issued by Projects Malta.”
10:05 Camenzuli is asked about the Electrogas power station. “I was not involved in it. Not all. Electrogas never was mentioned in the role of Projects Malta or Projects Plus [during his time].” He says he never saw any files relating to the deal.
10:04 He is still the chairman of Malta Resources Authority, (today REWS – regulator energy and water services).
09:59 Camenzuli was formerly the CEO of the Foundation for Medical Services. He became chairman of Projects Malta and later CEO of Projects Plus in January 2019, both roles overlapping. Projects Plus is a sister organisation to Projects Malta.
09:55 First witness is called: James Camenzuli of Projects Malta.
09:55 Therese Comodini Cachia: Recent witnesses have opened a new chapter, pointing towards a government within the government…
Mallia reserves the right to rule on the issue at a later stage.
09:52 The lawyer said all this requires adequate time and the government must not make obstacles to this.
09:51 The lawyer highlighted that it needs the time, serenity and faculty to work well, by collecting all the facts, testimony and documentation required. There are a number of witnesses yet to be summoned before the board and the family and lawyers need time to prepare for these witnesses and to prepare their written submissions, after the board concludes its report.
09:49 The lawyer reminded that the state is obligated to investigate the crime under European Convention, which should be independent, impartial and with all the powers and faculties to allow it to carry out its work freely.
09:48 Comodini Cachia notes the two years of obstacles faced by the Caruana Galizia family for the appointment of the inquiry board, during which time extensive meetings were held with the PM’s office.
09:46 Caruana Galizia family lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia registers an objection, saying this is not the way things are done.
09:44 Judge Michael Mallia reads out the PM’s reply to their request for more time for the inquiry to be concluded. The PM upheld the request, “despite the fact that it was made late.”
09:43 The panel of judges walks in and the sitting begins.
09:34 Today we are reporting live from the law courts as the public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia continues.
09:32 Good morning.
Original article found on The Malta Independent