Malta Police investigating Spanish company – Fisheries Director denies the accusations
The Director of the Fisheries Department, Andreina Fenech Farrugia, is being investigated after the Spanish authorities implicated an alleged case of bribery in order to breach the tuna fishing quota. The authorities released a transcription of a telephone call that Dr Fenech Farrugia had last summer with representatives of the Spanish aquaculture company, which owns the Mare Blu company in Malta, in which it is alleged that she requested money from them.
The Fisheries Director was suspended following the publication of telephone call transcriptions between her and Jose’ Fuentes Garcìa, who runs the Fuentes Group. The transcriptions reveal that she demanded hidden money to assist them importing tuna in the market, undeclared according to established quotas. Fuentes group in Malta also owns the Mare Blu company which operates tuna cages.
The Maltese Government stated that it is collaborating with authorities in all the investigations to establish the whole facts on this case, even in the interest of the fisheries and aquaculture sector in Malta.
It added that the Maltese Police also involved Europol to receive information from Spain on these investigations. At the same time, it was pointed out that the Maltese authorities are carrying out other investigations, through the Police, while a inquiry led by Magistrate Gabriella Vella has been established.
TVM is informed that the case against Dr Fenech Farrugia occurred following months long investigations with the Spanish authorities on illegal tuna market, which is estimated at a value of €25 million. It is understood that the Spanish secret service recorded the phone calls Dr Fenech Farrugia made with Fuentes Garcia. The Spanish authorities-Europol joint investigations, called Taratelo, led to the arrest in June last year of 79 persons in various Spanish towns.
Speaking to TVM, the chief executive of the Maltese Federation of Aquaculture, lawyer Charlon Gouder, said that the case is one of concern which requires immediate action. “We are following the latest development, even through meetings with our lawyers in Spain towards this weekend, so that together, we will see how this latest case will impact on the industry, particularly that of Malta”.
Dr Gouder welcomed the Government’s decision to suspend Dr Fenech Farrugia, adding that she has a right to defend herself as everyone is presumed innocent. On the other hand, he added, the industry cannot be further implicated with such allegations.
In a statement, Dr Fenech Farrugia strongly denied the allegations against her. She said she always acted and took action against every operator when fishing illegalities were found.
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