'Olmert, ambassador accused of corruption in Malta'

Maltese minister accuses Israeli ambassador and former PM of inappropriately pressuring his government to hire an Israeli firm.

December 7, 2010 09:08
1 minute read.
Ehud Olmert makes speech

Ehud Olmert speech 311. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir)

Israel's ambassador to Italy and Malta has denied accusations of putting undue pressure on the Maltese government to hire an Israeli firm to build a power plant, the Times of Malta reported on Monday.

Testifying before a parliamentary committee last week, Malta's Infrastructure Minister Austin Gatt accused former prime minister Ehud Olmert and Ambassador Gideon Meir of using inappropriate methods to convince the Maltese government to favor an Israeli company in a power station tender.

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Yariv Ovadia, Meir's spokesman told the Times of Malta that "the allegations suggesting that the Israeli ambassador or any other Israeli official had threatened any Maltese official are totally false," and that Meir acted properly "as part of his duties to promote econoic cooperation between Malta and Israel."

Bateman, an Israeli-Canadian firm, and BWSC, a Danish company, both applied for a tender to build a new power plant over a year ago. BWSC was chosen, even though Bateman's bid was 40 million euros lower.

Gatt reportedly testified before the Public Accounts Committee of the Maltese government that Meir and Olmert threatened Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi. He said that Olmert called the prime minister, but Gonzi refused to speak to him. Gatt also accused Israel of "dangling a carrot" by offering a "double taxation avoidance agreement" to Malta.

Ovadia responded that Meir heard of concerns about irregularities pertaining to the tender during "routine rounds of meetings," and informed Gonzi that he would refrain from discussing the topic.

“We feel sorry that the integrity of the state of Israel and the ambassador were dragged into this internal Maltese affair,” Meir's spokesman said.

Gatt's spokesman told the Times of Malta that Meir "did not deny saying the statements attributed to him," and "as long as the words attributed to him are correct, everyone is free to conclude what they amount to in the circumstances.”

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