Malta bans two oil groups from supply tenders

VALLETTA Thu Feb 21, 2013 6:32am EST

VALLETTA Feb 21 (Reuters) - Malta's state-owned energy group has excluded two oil trading companies from oil supply contracts pending an investigation into alleged illegal commissions in 2004 and 2005.

"Under the current circumstances of ongoing investigations, Enemalta's Fuel Procurement Committee has decided to exclude Trafigura and TOTSA from fuel tenders," a spokeswoman for Enemalta said on Thursday.

TOTSA is the oil trading arm of French oil major Total .

The Times of Malta newspaper reported that Enemalta's oil purchasing board had barred the two companies from bidding in fuel tenders, in view of their alleged connection to a series of oil deals which are under investigation.

The committee also decided to cancel the most recent fuel procurement tenders, even though some offers had already been received, for precautionary reasons.

"The process precludes the corporation's Procurement Committee from knowing who made an offer. No offers were opened and all invited suppliers were informed accordingly," the spokeswoman said.

Malta police on Tuesday arraigned in court former Enemalta Chairman Tancred Tabone and his adviser Frank Sammut and accused them of bribery, corruption and money laundering. More arraignments are expected, legal sources told Reuters.

The arraignments followed a government decision to grant a pardon to Total's former local agent, George Farrugia, in return for information given to the police and to a court.

The Times of Malta reported on Tuesday that in a 2010 meeting top executives from Total told their then Maltese agents they were not interested in doing business with them unless they had Farrugia on their team.

Maltese oil purchases have an approximate value of 1 million euros per day, according to local reports.

Trafigura said in a statement it recognised the accusations were serious.

"In Malta, fuel supplies to Enemalta are made through a public tender process managed by the Government's Fuel Procurement Committee; Trafigura has regularly submitted bids in accordance with this tender process and when successful has delivered fuel to Enemalta," it said.

"We are keeping the matter under review."

Total could not immediately be reached for comment. (Additional reporting by Emma Farge and Muriel Boselli in London; Editing by David Holmes)