• By The Financial District

CHINESE EXEC, STATE FIRM LINKED TO MALTESE SCRIBE’S MURDER

China’s sanctimonious declarations that it is transparent and does not condone corruption, genocide or bullying may finally be shattered as the money trail in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in October 2017 have been traced to a Chinese businessman and Accenture executive.

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In a special report undertaken by Reuters, the Times of Malta, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, and the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, Stephen Grey, Engen Tham, Jacob Borg, and Christoph Giesenave of Reuters discovered that Chen Cheng, 43, a senior Accenture executive, asked his relatives to organize two firms through which bribes were paid to Maltese politicians.


Chen, from Shanghai, negotiated investments on behalf of China's state-owned Shanghai Electric Power in Malta and in another small European state, Montenegro, over the past decade, according to Maltese officials and official records.


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The revelation of a Chinese connection potentially adds a new international dimension to a scandal that has rocked Malta's government and last year led to the resignation of the prime minister. It also could figure in a series of Maltese official investigations into the events leading up to Caruana Galizia's death.


Backed by Malta's government, the investments by Shanghai Electric Power were portrayed by Maltese and Chinese political leaders as one component of China's multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to pour money into economic infrastructure in central Asia and Europe.


In 2016, a year before she was murdered in a car bombing, Caruana Galizia identified Chen's key role in the transactions on her blog. A total of six people in Malta have been charged with Caruana Galizia's killing and await trial.


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Caruana Galizia reported that Chen created a company in the British Virgin Islands in 2014, for an unknown purpose. In the same year, Chen played a central role in negotiations and due diligence for Shanghai Electric Power to invest 380 million euros ($400 million) in buying a share of Malta's state power company, Enemalta. The office of the spokesperson of China's foreign ministry said "China's exchanges and cooperation with other countries are all open and transparent."


The first of the companies set up by the Chen family, known as Macbridge, planned to pay up to $2 million to Panama firms controlled by two Maltese politicians, Reuters has previously reported.


The second, called Dow's Media Company, received one million euros ($1.2 million) from a business owned by one of Malta's richest men, Yorgen Fenech, according to financial records seen by Reuters. Fenech is in jail, awaiting trial on a charge of masterminding Caruana Galizia's murder. He has pleaded not guilty.



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