2013 – Year in review
A number of stories dominated the year that is about to end. Here we review the top stories which were among the most followed by di-ve.com visitors.
Enemalta fuel procurement commissions scandal
The scandal that rocked the country in January, and continued to dominate the news for practically an entire year, concerned a number of commissions paid by oil trader George Farrugia to top Enemalta officials over a number of years to win fuel procurement tenders.
Mr Farrugia received a Presidential pardon to reveal the truth on the case and the Police have arraigned a number of people including prominent Maltese businessmen Tancred Tabone, Francis Portelli and Anthony Cassar and former Enemalta officials Frank Sammut, Alfred Mallia and Tarcisio Mifsud. The court cases are still ongoing.
The Public Accounts Committee is also holding an inquiry on the case following a report by the Auditor General which found several severe shortcomings in Enemalta’s fuel procurement policy and procedures.
Labour elected to govern
Joseph Muscat led the Labour Party to a landslide win over the Nationalist Party with an unprecedented 36,000 votes, or 54 per cent of the first count votes, and a nine-seat majority in the March 9 general election. The result was known within 30 minutes of the vote counting process as people voted for the Labour Party which campaigned for Malta Taghna Lkoll.
Surveys had consistently indicated that Labour would win with a comfortable majority but it was hard to believe that the swing would be so pronounced until the votes were counted. Joseph Muscat obtained the highest number of personal votes ever with 26,170 first count votes from two districts: 13,968 first count votes on the second district and 12,202 on the fourth district.
Simon Busuttil elected PN leader
Former Prime Minister and PN leader, Lawrence Gonzi, announced his retirement from politics immediately after his party lost the general election setting in motion an extraordinary general council which saw Simon Busuttil elected the seventh leader of the Nationalist Party with 93% of votes cast by 881 delegates.
Simon Busuttil was contested by second placed Mario de Marco who garnered 38.5 per cent of votes and third placed Francis Zammit Dimech while Raymond Bugeja was automatically eliminated after garnering the lowest amount of votes in the first election for leader.
25% reduction in electricity tariffs
A reduction of 25 per cent of the current utility bills kicked off Labour’s electoral campaign for affordable, reliable and clean energy for all. The government’s plan is to enter into a gas supply and a power purchase agreement for Enemalta to achieve a diversified mix of cleaner, low cost energy supply through which families will benefit from a reduction of between 25 and 35 per cent of their utility bills in March 2014 while commercial and industrial entities will benefit from the reduction in March 2015.
The process was fast tracked and the ElectroGas Malta Consortium was the preferred bidder in the competitive process. The Consortium submitted a final blended price of €95.99 per MW which equates to 9.599 euro cents per KW.
The ElectroGas Malta Consortium comprises Siemens Project Ventures GMBH, SOCAR Trading SA, Gasol Plc and GEM Holdings Ltd.
A number of murders gripped the nation’s attention during 2013 with the most intriguing being the double murder of Mario Camilleri, 51, known as ‘L-Imnieħru’ and his son Mario Junior, 21. Father and son were allegedly murdered by Jason Galea, the brother of Mario Camilleri’s wife and uncle of Mario Junior.
Mario Camilleri was shot in the head while his son was stabbed around 34 times and then shot. The bodies of the convicted criminal and his son were found covered with soil under a tree in a field. The Police discovered another corpse close to the two bodies, later identified as that of Matthew Zahra, 27, of Valletta who was reported missing on August 15, 2012.
L-Imnieħru a convicted drug trafficker was also found guilty of bribing former Chief Justice Noel Arrigo whom he paid around €23,000 in exchange for a leaner sentence. He was also awaiting trial over heroin trafficking and possession dating back to 2007. Meanwhile, his 21 year old son also had frequent brushes with the law. Last year, he was charged with kicking and attacking two policewomen. Back in 2008, Mario Junior, together with his father, was charged with assault and inflicting slightly injuries and with the illegal possession of a firearm.
Another murder was that of Paul Degabriele, known as Is-Suldat, who was shot five times outside the Enemalta customer Care Office in Belt il-Ħażna.
Gerald Galea, 63, from Marsalforn was charged with the murder of John Spiteri who was killed after Mr Galea’s drove his 4x4 vehicle over the victim, after hitting him, following an altercation between the two men. The two had an argument over the trimming of trees in Marsalforn.
John Caruana, 61, was shot dead by his daughter's former boyfriend, 52-year-old Godwin Scicluna. Mr Caruana's 25-year-old daughter had had a relationship with Mr Scicluna and the two had four children.
Ronald Galea, 65, was shot dead outside his meat processing company Continental Meat Co Ltd. The man was found lying on the ground behind a Ford Mondeo car after having been shot up to nine times.
Public transport operator, Arriva, will be leaving Malta this week after taking over the bus service in July 2011 and in the process incur debts of around €50 million. What was described at the time as an end to ‘buzullotti’ brought confusion, a host of new routes, unbearable traffic jams and public disgruntlement. The situation got worse when a number of bendy buses caught fire in August and the company was ordered to refrain from using the bendies.
Transport Malta will take over the service from January 1, 2014, and will continue to run the service until a new operator is awarded the license. A call for expressions of interest will be issued.
Sale of Maltese citizenship
The government surprised everyone when it announced an Individual Investor Programme, which is essentially a scheme through which Maltese citizenship can be bought by 1,800 applicants for €1.15 million, and in the process attracting world-wide media attention
The Bill was rushed through Parliament and within hours of the President signing the law a secrecy clause was rescinded. The PN had opposed the scheme demanding consensus and investment. After a series of meetings between the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition no agreement was reached and the scheme was launched a few days ago.