Ferris denies soliciting €40,000 and gifts
Enemalta’s former chief projects officer Raymond Ferris denied asking for €40,000 in kickbacks to help award the Enemalta’s petroleum division to PowerPlan, the company owned by state witness George Farrugia, the Court was told today.
Defence lawyers Veronique Dalli and Kenneth Grima questioned Farrugia’s credibility arguing that the man who got pardoned not only should but is obliged to say the truth. Raymond Ferris, 51, from Sliema accepted that he was given a number of silver gifts by Farrugia and admitted to exchanging these for an antique silver tray. Mr Ferris is being accused of trading in influence, bribery and fraud based on Farrugia’s testimony. He is pleading not guilty to all charges, and was granted bail last week.
Prosecuting inspector Angelo Gafà took the witness stand and recounted how police investigations into revelations of alleged corruption in oil procurement led them to Mr Farrugia, who was subsequently granted a pardon to turn state witness. Mr Farrugia told the Police that PowerPlan made a bid for Enemalta’s petroleum division together with Greek company Mamidakis, which was one of four bids made when a call for tenders was made in 2008. The adjudication board selected BP Energy as the preferred bidder, and nearly five years later, the process is still ongoing.
“This is a long process, and it takes time,” said Inspector Gafa. He recalled that after a call for expressions of interest was made in 2007, Mr Farrugia said that he approached Mr Ferris, who was responsible for the privatisation process within Enemalta. Mr Ferris allegedly had asked for €40,000 to influence the adjudication board, which would only be paid if the tender is awarded. All was agreed, but shortly before Christmas of that year, Mr Farrugia said that Mr Ferris asked for four silver gifts which he would pass on to members of the adjudication process. Mr Farrugia said that he remembered buying four gifts, worth approximately €2,000 each, but could not produce receipts.
When Mr Ferris was questioned by Inspector Gafà, he denied receiving any silver giftsand the inspector searched his home. Mr Ferris subsequently said that he received three gifts, which he part exchanged for an antique silver tray at Azzopardi Jewellers in Floriana. The three gifts were valued at €2,700, and the tray was worth around €3,000 but jeweller Joseph Azzopardi could not produce any records to confirm this.
In his statement to the police, Mr Ferris said that he met Mr Farrugia at the latter’s request, and that Mr Farrugia provided three wrapped gifts and told him to pass them on to members of the adjudication board. Mr Ferris told the police that he decided to keep the gifts himself, and to exchange them after the adjudication board made its decision. He denied asking for €40,000 or soliciting gifts.
Superintendent Paul Vassallo, who had visited Mr Azzopardi’s jewellery, said that when he asked Mr Azzopardi for records of the transaction at the heart of the case, he was told that the jeweller did not keep such records.