A Maltese national who lives in the US has fallen victim to threats over his criticism of construction infringements by property magnate Joseph Portelli in Gozo.
Joseph Dalli presented The Shift with a number of screenshots of threats and insults he received on Facebook messenger by two individuals.
The two separate threats came about after Dalli decided to post an article highlighting a controversial building application in Qala on the comments board of Nadur Youngsters FC. Portelli is the president of the club.
One of the individuals told Dalli, in messages seen by The Shift, that if he ever set foot in Malta again he would “break his teeth”. Dalli was clear he would be reporting the threat to the police.
“I don’t care,” the other replied, repeating the threat again among a litany of insults in a string of messages.
Dalli filed two separate police reports, also seen by The Shift. But the police said they could not prosecute because they needed the plaintiff to be physically present in Maltese courts to testify, despite the fact that his presence on the island was subject to threats.
In emails following the reports, Dalli explained that the threats were made by people close to Portelli and that he would like to press criminal charges against these individuals.
At this point, Dalli said, all the evidence was gathered by him and presented to the Maltese police force in digital form. He also said that he would be readily available to give his testimony by skype or the Maltese embassy in the US.
The police insisted that the evidence in the case had to be ‘viva voce’, by being physically present in open court. The police superintendent explained that the report was still filed even if this was not “the proper way to lodge complaints”.
“Unless you plan to be in Gozo anytime soon we cannot proceed to court,” the police replied.
Dalli then explained he was hesitant to come to Malta. “Not only based on the fact that my reports specifically mention physical harm upon my arrival to Malta, but also because the country has a history of whistleblowers and critics being harmed.”
To make matters worse, Covid-19 has made travelling to Europe problematic.
Dalli approached the Consul General of Malta in the US to help him with the matter.
Dalli is a former member of the Labour Party who says he helped the Party with messaging and social media at the time when Joseph Muscat was at the helm. He fell out with Party soon after Labour gained power, saying he was disgusted at the level of corruption.
Dalli had clashed with Muscat over the lack of enforcement and action taken on the Gozitan developer and other individuals in the construction industry. He had spoken to the former prime minister on more than one occasion saying he felt that the administration was ignoring accusations of developers working without permits.
In an email, Dalli had warned the Prime Minister that the government’s failure to rein in illegalities by those who “donated to the Party” made them no different to all that they had campaigned against when in opposition. Muscat’s reply, as the Prime Minister at the time, was: “What the fuck, Joe”.
“You’d think a country that is trying to rid itself of corruption and violence would make an effort to weed these things out, but I guess not,” Dalli had said to Muscat in emails seen by The Shift.
Portelli’s name regularly makes the news. Last year, he built a concrete batching plant in Kercem without the necessary permits. The developer has filed an application for sanctioning and a decision by the Planning Authority is yet to be taken. Meanwhile, this same illegal batch was awarded work by the Gozo Ministry – by direct order.
Earlier this year, a report revealed how a massive 165-apartment project in Qala was put together in stages through applications filed by different individuals who are all, however, somehow connected to Portelli. The project, which spreads over an area larger than three football fields, was proposed through four different applications.