Updated to include government response
The controversial deal on a property in Old Mint Street, Valletta, exposed in 2015 has been rescinded in part, according to court documents.
The Maltese courts rescinded the government land handed over to Mark Gaffarena, after the Prime Minister filed a court case against Gaffarena and his wife Josielle to recoup the lands transferred in the expropriation of a palazzo in Old Mint Street, Valletta.
The scandal was revealed by The Shift News journalist Caroline Muscat who at the time was a senior journalist for The Times of Malta.
The court revoked all transfers made in terms of two expropriation contracts and ordered the return of all assets to government.
The investigation had revealed that Gaffarena made a profit of €685,000 in less than two months, apart from acquiring parcels of land in exchange equivalent to the size of more than 10 football pitches.
Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon was forced to resign after a report by the National Audit Office concluded there was collusion between government officials and Gaffarena.
In 2015, the government paid €1.65 million for part ownership of the Valletta property that Gaffarena had bought for a fraction of the price just weeks earlier. The investigation stopped the transfer of millions more and protected the families owning the property from further exploitation.
The court was also asked to issue a warrant of seizure equivalent to the funds already paid to Gaffarena and a warrant to stop the transfer of properties handed to them by the government.
The NAO report was clear on the collusion between the government and the accused.
In a statement, the government welcomed the court’s decision, which it said would ensure that public land transferred under the deal would be returned back to the people.
“It was the Prime Minister who took the bold step to file a case in court to revert the deal. The court’s conclusion proved him right. This is an answer to those who said this was a fake case,” according to the statement.
Critics have argued the deal should have never occurred in the first place under the Prime Minister’s watch.