A joint Reuters and Times of Malta journalistic investigation, released earlier this afternoon, revealed that a Chinese executive is behind the Macbridge company with which disgraced former Energy Minister Dr. Konrad Mizzi and former Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, planned doing business with.
The international investigation has revealed the links between Macbridge, Yorgen Fenech’s 17 Black, China, Malta and the Panama firms of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri.
The Chinese executive who helped negotiate their investment in Enemalta was Chen Cheng, a senior executive for Accenture, which is a global consultancy firm. He used his relatives to set up two firms in Hong Kong, and is the brains behind Macbridge. Police investigators believed Macbridge was an acronym that stands for ‘Malta And China Bridge’.
Macbridge was the first of the companies to be set up by the Chen family, and it was planned to pay up to $2 million to Panama firms controlled by Mizzi and Schembri. It was shown listed as a target client alongside 17 Black, later revealed to be owned by Yorgen Fenech. Fenech stands accused of masterminding the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. He has pleaded not guilty.
Of the two other firms in Hong Kong, Dow’s Media Company was the second Chen Cheng, company, and the published investigation revealed how it received €1 million from 17 Black.
In July last year, local media had also revealed that when Fenech was being interrogated by the police when he was arrested in November 2019 that Macbridge was acting as another conduit for moneys from government-financed projects. He claimed that he knew the reason why it was set up besides the company’s ownership of the company, yet he shared no further details.
From international legal requests made by the Malta Police, it transpires that they suspect that Macbridge and Dow’s Media formed part of an elaborate scheme of China-Malta deals, aimed at making payments to politicians in Malta, as well as siphon off profits for the perpetrators of this scheme.
Fenech’s lawyers declined to comment about any links between their client and Chen Cheng.
Matthew Caruana Galizia claims that his mother Daphne, had known of 17 Black and Macbridge in April 2016, and had been working on a tip that the firms were used to funnel money to politicians. Daphne Caruana Galizia was then murdered in October 2017, before she could reveal her findings.
When the Chinese State energy company, Shanghai Electric Power, bought a stake in Enemalta in 2014, Chen Cheng was involved in the negotiations , and later he was also involved in the Montenegro wind farm investment by Enemalta, that saw 17 Black make a hefty profit, as revealed by another journalistic investigation last year. Shortly after, the new investigation revealed that 17 Black made three payments to Dow’s Media, totalling €1 million.
The new international dimension placed by these revelations on the scandal has already rocked the Maltese government to the extent that it obliged and led to the Dr. Joseph Muscat’s resignation as prime minister.
Caruana Galizia had already identified on her blog in 2016 Chen Cheng’s focal role in the Malta-China energy transactions. She wrote that Chen Cheng created a company in the British Virgin Islands in 2014, for an unknown purpose. That same year, Chen Cheng had a key focal role in Shanghai Electric Power’s negotiations and due diligence for it to invest €380 million in buying a stake in Enemalta.
Today’s revelations by reporters from Reuters, the Times of Malta, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and the Süddeutsche Zeitung, uncover that Chen Cheng’s family set up two other companies in Hong Kong, each having with Malta business links.
Both Chen Cheng and Shanghai Electric Power had no comments. However, Accenture said in a statement it is taking the matter very seriously and “carefully reviewing these allegations as they relate to one of our people. We adhere to the highest ethical standards in every market in which we operate and have zero tolerance for any deviation from those standards.” Locally though, Enemalta declined to answer questions about Chen Cheng.
On the other hand, the China’s foreign ministry spokesperson’s office said, “China’s exchanges and cooperation with other countries are all open and transparent.”
Kieth Schembri had no comment when his lawyer was contacted , whereas former energy minister at the time of the Chinese investment in Enemalta, Dr. Konrad Mizzi, has continued to stress that he has no knowledge of Macbridge, and his only connection to Chen Cheng was through his official capacity.