17 Black: Up to €8m passed through the company says Reuters to Newsbook

Although $2 million were found in 17 Black’s account in Dubai, Reuters journalist Stephen Gray said that up to €8 million actually passed through it. 17 Black’s owner, Yorgen Fenech, met the journalist’s direct question on ownership with silence.

While being interviewed by RTK’s Follow Up, Gray explained that during the investigation, emails were identified both in the Panama Papers and by Malta’s Financial Analysis Unit – which passed on its findings to the Economic Crimes Unit –  linking Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri to 17 Black, and another company called MacBridge. These emails were sent by Nexia BT on behalf of the Tourism Minister and the OPM’s Chief of Staff.

Reuters and the Times of Malta unveiled last week that Yorgen Fenech, the Director of the Electrogas Power Station and Tumas Group CEO, was the owner of 17 Black. The company registered in Dubai was meant to transfer €150,000 every month to now Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, and OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri.

Interestingly, when Gray contacted Minister Mizzi, he categorically denied any connection to either of the companies, but he never accused Nexia BT of misrepresenting him in their emails. Keith Schembri, on the other hand, confirmed that the companies were part of their business plans without giving any further details.

When it comes to Yorgen Fenech, he was also identified by the FIAU, as well as having his name present on accounts in Noor Bank in Dubai.

Upon being contacted, Gray said of Fenech that he was very forthcoming but adamant that he had done nothing wrong, that his business was not politically connected, and that there were no such plans. He also said he has never heard of the companies Tillgate and Hearneville, found to belong to the aforementioned Mizzi and Schembri, until news of the secret companies came out in the media.

That being said, the only thing he was not forthcoming about when being pressed, according to Gray,  was whether or not he was the owner of 17 Black. Gray said that he asked him about three times until eventually he was met with silence.

“We talk about these sorts of things like they’re completely normal … but this is strange stuff and it shouldn’t be how normal business is conducted,” Gray said. He also added that he is currently investigating MacBridge, but so far there are no leads.

Click here for an overview of the 17 Black saga.