UPDATE 1-Malta bans Trafigura, Total unit from oil supply tenders

Thu Feb 21, 2013 2:57pm EST

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(Adds Total comment in paragraph 8 and detail in paragraph 3)

By Chris Scicluna

VALLETTA Feb 21 (Reuters) - Malta's state-owned energy group said it has excluded two trading companies from oil supply contracts pending the conclusion of police investigations concerning alleged illegal commissions in 2004 and 2005.

"The Fuel Procurement Committee has decided to exclude Trafigura and TOTSA in view of the current investigations," a spokeswoman for Enemalta said in a statement on Thursday.

TOTSA is the oil trading arm of French oil major Total and Trafigura is a top five private oil trading house.

"Trafigura recognises that these are serious accusations," the trading house said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

"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."

The Enemalta committee also decided to cancel its most recent fuel procurement tenders, even though some offers had already been received, as a precaution.

"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 Enemalta spokeswoman said.

"TOTSA learnt via the press its exclusion from Enemalta's fuel supply contracts. Totsa is not aware of being part of an investigation. We have no knowledge that illegal commissions were paid in 2004 and 2005," a spokeswoman for TOTSA 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.

Total said that Farrugia was not exclusively working for Total and had a number of other clients.

Maltese oil purchases have an approximate value of 1 million euros ($1.3 million) per day, according to local reports. ($1 = 0.7563 euros) (Additional reporting by Emma Farge and Muriel Boselli in London; Editing by David Holmes and Anthony Barker)

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