Siemens claims no knowledge of wrongdoing at ElectroGas

Repubblika unimpressed by company's claims

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

German multinational Siemens, a shareholder in the ElectroGas consortium, has insisted it has found no indication of any misconduct within the group in response to a letter sent by civil society NGO Repubblika.

The NGO was far from impressed by the company’s claim, insisting that the company’s own conduct may fall foul of its home country’s anti-corruption laws.

Repubblika had sent a letter to Siemens president and CEO Joe Käser , asking him to publicly declare the extent of the multinational’s knowledge of any money laundering and kickbacks involved in the ElectroGas deal, and urging the company to do its part to rescind a deal “procured by corruption.”

The letter was sent in the wake of revelations that Siemens was sending a delegation to Malta, made shortly after the Gasan Group declared its intentions to exit the consortium as soon as possible. Gasan’s declaration, in turn, came in the wake of the arrest of Keith Schembri and Nexia BT’s three partners.

‘Repeated internal and external reviews’

Käser chose not to answer the NGO personally: Siemens’ reply was sent by its head of corporate communications Clarissa Haller.

She insisted that “following repeated internal and external reviews, Siemens is – to date – not aware of any indications of misconduct on the part of Siemens, Siemens employees or ElectroGas Malta. As soon as we received information giving us reasonable cause to believe that there might have been misconduct outside Siemens, we took immediate action and have been taking appropriate action ever since.”

Haller also referred to Yorgen Fenech, the former Tumas Group CEO who stands accused of ordering the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia – who had been investigating the ElectroGas deal.

She said that when it emerged that Fenech owned Emirati company 17 Black – which, leaked emails show, was set to fund offshore structures set up by Schembri and Konrad Mizzi – Siemens insisted on his dismissal from ElectroGas board of directors. No such dismissal happened until his arrest over the murder, however, and the Tumas Group has since named a new representative.

Company’s scrutiny insufficient, Repubblika insists

Repubblika president Robert Aquilina hit back, stating that whatever reviews the German giant may have done were clearly not enough according to its own business conduct guidelines.

He highlighted that Fenech remained the sole owner of New Energy Holding, one of the companies forming part of ElectroGas shareholder GEM Holdings. Consequently, he emphasised, Fenech remained Siemens’ business partner in spite of the murder charge against him.

Aquilina questioned whether Siemens’ reviews provided satisfactory explanations of the circumstances leading to the ElectroGas deal, including the very rapid conclusion of the terms of reference after the 2013 general election. He also flagged Nexia BT’s role in the procurement of the ElectroGas contract, particularly since the disgraced firm played a key role in setting up Panama companies for Mizzi and Schembri.

The Repubblika president also sought explanations on the government’s unprecedented support of the consortium, including providing security for financing, relieving it of paying excise tax and commuting all penalties for late delivery.

The revelation that 17 Black would funnel funds into Mizzi and Schmebri’s Panama companies led to only one reasonable conclusion: that Fenech reserved a portion of his ElectroGas profits to bribe government officials. This, Aquilina maintained, was a far cry from Siemens’ stated aim to compete fairly for contracts.

“Your response is entirely inconsistent with the values you profess, and we also suspect that your conduct may very well be in breach of the anti-corruption laws of your country,” he concluded.