BREAKING/Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech operates canteen at Malta’s largest employer – company fronted for 13 years by Brian Tonna

Published: March 16, 2017 at 3:53pm

The deputy Prime Minister, Louis Grech, owns the company which operates the canteen at Malta’s largest and most influential employer, ST Microelectronics.

The company, S G Catering Ltd, was set up in January 2003 with Brian Tonna, the corrupt accountant at the centre of the Panama Papers scandal, as director, legal and judicial representative, and company secretary. Louis Grech was never an officer of the company, leaving those roles to Tonna. All the shares in S G Catering, bar the standard token single share, are held by 1999 Ltd, a company in which Grech is the majority shareholder and in which his two daughters and one son hold equal minority amounts of class B shares.

Brian Tonna stepped down as director, legal and judicial representative and company secretary in April last year, just days after the Panama Papers were published worldwide, throwing him into the eye of a storm of scandal. He was replaced in all four officer positions by Natalie McHarg, the deputy Prime Minister’s long-term girlfriend, who is completely unknown to the public because he is never seen with her at official functions. Her name is therefore not immediately recognisable as directly linked to the deputy Prime Minister.

The company’s registered office was originally a flat the deputy Prime Minister owns in South Street, Valletta, and was later moved to ST Microelectronics itself. But when Tonna stepped down to be replaced by Mrs McHarg last year, the registered address was shifted to Altair, De Paule Avenue, Balzan.

ST Microelectronics is in constant contact with the government because of the crucial role it plays in the economy. But there is a far more important fact which emerges from this report: that Louis Grech has been a close collaborator of Brian Tonna (who was also his accountant), since at least as far back as 2002 – 15 years ago. This confirms that, contrary to popular belief, it was not Keith Schembri, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, who introduced Tonna into the equation, but Grech who has been collaborating with him for far longer.

This makes it extremely unlikely that the deputy Prime Minister was left out of the loop when Brian Tonna was commissioned to work on the Panama companies and New Zealand trusts for Konrad Mizzi – who Louis Grech also introduced into the equation; he is one of his father Lawrence Mizzi’s closest friends and long-time Air Malta colleagues from the 1970s – and for Keith Schembri and a third individual.

This new information also illustrates how important it is that cabinet ministers’ declarations to parliament should be declarations of interests as well as of income and assets. It is absolutely crucial, for reasons that need not be explained, for the deputy Prime Minister to declare that he operates the canteen at Malta’s largest and most influential factory, and not just his shareholding of 1999 Ltd, a company which in turn owns S G Catering Ltd, which was not declared to parliament.

Keith Schembri, Louis Grech, Joseph Muscat and Konrad Mizzi, at the signing of the deal which sold a significant part of Malta’s power-generation facilities to the Chinese government.