Malta's Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi has revealed that more than 1000 smart meters have been tampered with, resulting in rampant electricity theft in the country. "A highly sophisticated system" had been installed in the smart meters, allowing the meters to record less energy units than what was actually being consumed, according to a report last week in Malta Today.
The discovery resulted in three Enemalta employees' suspension, as Enemalta, Malta's utility company, provided a clear audit trail confirming its suspicions. Enemalta sent the suspicious smart meters to Enel, the Italian meter provider, which detected the discrepancy after running tests.
Malta Today reported that Mizzi said, "The Italians themselves were highly impressed by the software, admitting they had never seen anything like that installed in these smart meters."
The meters were installed in private residences and small businesses, such as grocers and shops. Enemalta said that the theft started at the end of 2011 and "exploded" in 2012. Enemalta has installed 200,000 smart meters and believes that more than the discovered 1000 may be rigged to steal electricity.
Now, the blame game begins, as the Malta Independent reported that "sparks and calls for political responsibility are flying fast and furious." Mizzi has charged that former energy minister Tonio Fenech had known about the racket when in office but failed to take action.
Fenech told the Independent: “We had a suspicion that there was a way in which they could be tampered with to slow down the recording of consumption. This, however, does not mean that I knew that there was an actual racket in progress. These are two completely different matters altogether."
According to reports, those running the racket had charged €1,200 per residential smart meter, with charges for tampering with smart meters in commercial establishments much higher. The scam had amounted to some 10 percent of the total generation of electricity by Enemalta, costing taxpayers around €30 million in 2012 alone.
The nation of Malta is not delaying justice, but could something like this happen in the United States, or other countries?