The Gozo Ministry has given yet another direct order to a company operating an illegal batching plant in Kercem for ‘urgent’ roadworks, despite its previous claim that it was unaware that the company did not fall in line with the law.
The same concrete batching plant, co-owned by a group of businessmen and headed by Gozitan developer Joseph Portelli, had been used in October 2019 for urgent works in the road leading from Ramla Bay to Nadur.
At that time, a spokesman for then Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana had said the minister was unaware of the company’s illegalities and the fact that it was operating without a permit.
Yet, the company is still receiving direct orders from the Gozo Ministry, according to information recently published in the Government Gazette.
Prax Ltd, the company set up to construct and operate the illegal batching plant, was paid €108,665 in December 2019, for ‘urgent asphalting works’ in the same road in Nadur.
Only two months after the Gozo Minister had claimed no knowledge of illegalities to defend the awarding of a direct order to a plant operating without a permit, the same ministry handed over a new contract worth over €100,000. The company had only been set up in August, immediately landing lucrative deals.
Prax Ltd is owned by Portelli, Mark Agius, known as Ta’ Dirjanu, Daniel Refalo and Gozitan contractor Anthony Bugeja, known as ix-Xrik.
Bugeja had received another direct order for emergency works in the road leading to Ramla Bay in Nadur. He got all the concrete from his own illegal batching plant and was paid €118,568 by the Gozo Ministry for these works.
These direct orders were made when Caruana was Gozo Minister, before she was forced to resign because of her husband’s close links to Yorgen Fenech, the man accused of being the mastermind of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder. Fenech was receiving information from the minister’s husband, Silvio Valletta, the former Deputy Police Commissioner, according to testimonies in court.
Despite the fact that the batching plant – imported second hand from Sicily – was transported on the Gozo Channel ferry and assembled in a quarry, the Planning Authority did not intervene to stop its construction.
When reports of the illegal works started appearing in the media, the Planning Authority issued an enforcement notice ordering works to stop, with daily fines for infringements. Yet, the plant has continued to operate unhindered to this day and the police have not been called to stop the works or seal off the illegal operation.
The Shift is informed that the batching plant is still supplying concrete to various ongoing government projects in Gozo – even under new Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri. This is over and above the private projects taking place all over the island by the owners of the same illegal plant.
To make matters worse, the quarry, known as Tal-Qattara is actually owned by the Lands Authority.
According to the lease agreement for the use of the quarry with third parties, no change of use for other activities is allowed without the Lands Authority’s consent.
Last year, the Lands Authority said that it was unaware that a batching plant was being constructed and said an investigation would be launched.