Gozo Grab #5: Nadur residents gear up for court battle against foundation

“All my extended families are united against this” – landowner and developer

 

A dozen Nadur residents – including the Karkanja siblings who have been the subject of controversy over seemingly conflicting roles in the Gozo grab saga – have filed counter claims against the medieval foundation that registered large lands in Nadur in its name.

Since the government is unlikely to revoke the questionable registration, according to well-informed sources, the stage is being set for a major court battle with the foundation, or benefice, that is claiming swathes of Gozo land on the basis of old deeds.

Among those who filed counter claims, or ‘cautions’ as they are technically known, is the Karkanja family which holds the largest plot in the registered lands in Nadur. The Karkanja land is undeveloped, unlike the land of many others who have their only homes built on it.

Euchar Vella (second from right) at a press conference held by the Malta Developers Association.

In a letter sent to The Shift and Lovin Malta, which he described as a Right of Reply, one of the Karkanja siblings – developer Euchar Vella – urged residents “not to succumb to individually reach agreements,” since a court case on the same matter in 1972 was unitedly won and can be won again.

“All my extended families are united against this as we are the most affected, owning the largest plot. In fact, last week we issued a joint declaration sent to Nadur Local Council after the same council and many others asked about the gossip doing the rounds that we have somehow reached a deal with the Abbazia [the old name for the office of the benefice],” he said, attaching evidence of his and his family’s objections.

Last Tuesday, The Shift and Lovin Malta reported these rumours have intensified since Vella, who is one of Gozo’s largest developers, applied to build a block of 10 flats on land obtained from the same foundation in Qala.

The site at Ta’ Marġa marked in red where Euchar Vella applied to build a block of 10 flats.

Euchar Vella’s sister, the notary Maria Vella Magro, has been preparing notarial documents for residents affected by the land dispute.

In his letter, Vella admitted that the “situation is awkward,” adding that he entered into a “preliminary agreement on two plots in Qala in April 2019” – well before the lands in Nadur were registered by the foundation. He clarified tat he will defend his family’s properties in Nadur.

The family’s plot in Nadur is 4,000 square metres, according to submissions made at the Land Registry last Monday, and is situated behind a private church build by their ancestors a century ago.

The foundation, called Beneficcju ta Sant Antonio Delli Navarra, was founded in 1675, and the people currently behind it are six Sliema siblings, retired magistrate Dennis Montebello, and senior lawyer Carmelo Galea.

Dozens of houses sit on the registered lands in Nadur, and the recent contacts by the foundation asking homeowners to pay between €10,000 and €70,000 for out-of-court settlements has triggered a new sense of outrage.

The stakes are high: the land registered a year ago is worth many millions, the Karkanja plot itself is worth a few million.

Vella also calls on political leaders to make good on their “promise to withdraw the registration.”

As recently as three weeks ago, Parliamentary Secretary Alex Muscat said in parliament that he is still seeking “legal advice” and intends to “turn back the clock” and get “registrations revoked.” Sources have also said that Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri has also been privately telling constituents that the government would resolve their situation upon filing counter claims.

Yet despite politicians’ promises, well-informed sources have told the investigation that extensive high level discussions over a span of months have led to an impasse on the question of revocations.

The government’s legal advisors are reluctant to advocate revocations partly on the understanding that the function of the Land Registry is to “regulate the registration of title to land”, not to arbitrate on, or become embroiled in, claims of land ownership. The understanding is that this is a matter for the courts.

Moreover, legal advice given to the government suggested that residents in Nadur can make use of remedies enshrined in the Land Registration Act – to make counter claims or cautions, even to take the matter to court for resolution.

Legal experts advising the investigative team said the legal point made that recourse to remedies exists does not settle questions on the approved registrations, and whether these could be left undisturbed.

When the Latin deeds were translated, months after the approval of the registrations, it emerged that the size of the land leased in 1737 was around 2,000 square metres smaller than the land marked by the foundation in its application.

Old maps were little more than sketches, making boundaries unclear.

Asked if this discrepancy constitutes the ‘error, mistake or omission’ specified in the law that would justify revocation, Land Registrar Claude Sapiano said that in keeping with “past experience in the Land Registry it is normal that on such a great area of land and considering that the measurements were originally taken hundreds of years ago there would be such discrepancies”.

“One must be realistic and compare the instruments of that age with today’s technology which is completely different,” Sapiano added. He also explained that ‘cautions’, or counter claims by residents only serve to “freeze” the registration.

Around 12 cautions have been filed to date, including the latest one by the Karkanja family.

Sapiano said: “That means that no land transfers can happen on that property affected by cautions. Then we leave it up to the parties to resolve the registration between them. In most cases, the dispute ends up in court, and the Land Registry would rectify the registration and issue a land title on the basis of a court judgement.”

This is part of an investigative series being published jointly by The Shift and Lovin Malta about an ongoing land dispute in Gozo. The investigative team had strategic and research input by Caroline Muscat and Chris Peregin. More updates to follow.

                           
                               
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Euchar Vella
Euchar Vella
3 months ago

Moderator’s Comment: This is being posted as received. The assertions of fact and statements of opinion are not endorsed by this website and are the sole responsibility of their author.

This was my right of reply in full sent 10/02/2021

Dear Editors

I refer to your article published yesterday misleadingly titled “Gozo Grab #4: Nadur siblings on opposite sides of the fence in controversial land deal as conflicts of interest raised”.

Please publish immediately the below right of reply in full including attachments.

First of all I want to make it clear that all my extended families are united against this land grab of Nadur where we are the most affected owning the largest plot. In fact last week we issued a joint declaration sent to Nadur Local Council after the same council and many others asked about the gossip doing the rounds that we have somehow reached a deal with the Abbazia’. Attached please find a copy.
Also attached is a copy of the caution we registered last Monday.

Now to the conflict of interest claim.
Yes the situation is awkward. I entered into a preliminary agreement on two plots in Qala in April 2019 after I had confirmation that this land was pacifically released by a previous tenant who admitted he had no title. Dr Carmelo Galea is also my lawyer in other unrelated cases. He was also the lawyer against me many other times.
This does not mean that I will not take whatever it takes to defend my family’s properties. I made this clear to not just Dr Galea but also to all of his partners. I do not go personal. These conflicting situations arise all the time in our tiny Gozo. It’s hard for anyone in a profession or in business to declare otherwise.

The legal situation in central Nadur is different from the other areas on the island claimed by the Abbazia. I appeal to those affected not to succumb to individually reach agreements. The court case decided on the same matter in 1972 was unitedly won and we can surely do the same again. May I also appeal to the authorities and the MPs involved to take action on their promise to withdraw the registration (accepted on the basis of an Old Latin written 1737 dated contract) which was done abusively ignoring all what happened in almost (last) 300 years. The claims of the Abbazia in central Nadur are unfounded by law. Matters of land titles and ownership are decided in court and not by abusing the Land Registry and I openly challenge the Abbazia to start proceedings if they are to insist on their claim.

Regards

Euchar Vella

M. Galea
M. Galea
3 months ago
Reply to  Euchar Vella

Ha nirrispondik bil Malti car ta! Qed tiggieled ghax fl interess tieghek li tiggieled ghax milqut inti wkoll, ara l art fil Qala ma qghatx tahraq qalbek ghal sid l art bla titolu w fl ahhar ghaddiet tieghek biex tibni go wied! U nkxift ghax bl avukat Carmelo Galea tahdem! Hallina tridtx! Ghadha taharqek zaqqek ghal haddiem u l istudent ghal li jista jkun? Hallina nerggha nghidlek!

Euchar Vella
Euchar Vella
3 months ago
Reply to  M. Galea

Jekk ma tafx il-fatti specjalment legali oqghod attent/a kif timalafama. Ilek tikteb u tivvinta hafna fuqi ghax int kontra t-Tunnel u jien favur. Int kontra l-Maltin jiegu Ghawdex u jien nemmen li ahna poplu wiehed. Tipretendi li tkun kapricjuz/a bi hwejjeg haddiehor u fuq kollox qatt ma urejt kemm int pur/a.
Ma naqblux imma qatt ma ghajartek jew attekajtek personali. Sfiddajtek tidibattini fuq liema suggett trid, imma mid-dehra tiddejjaq turi minn int. Ibqa ikteb ibzax. Pjacir ittini. L-ghira hija kejl!

M. Galea
M. Galea
3 months ago
Reply to  Euchar Vella

Ha nghidlek haga jien nafek izjed milli taf lili int u naf x issarraf! Jien tigini l ghira!? Niggarantilek li le! Ghandi bizzejjed miniex rghib bhalek! Jien niddibatti kif niddibatti ma nies bhalek ghax l ipokrezija ddejjaqni. U r rebgha li twassal ghat tkissir ta’ pajjizek stess tirvillani! Mhux ovvja li jghogbuk certi faxxex ta nies jekk jigu jpaxxuk!

M. Galea
M. Galea
3 months ago
Reply to  Euchar Vella

Tista tghidli x qed nirvinta fuqek? Tipruvax tpingi l haddiehor ikrah halli tidher sabih int! Li ktibt jiena ktibtu inti stess! Ilni niddibatti fuq suggett li lili ddejjaqni jmmens! Jekk veru trid tidher sabih ghax ma tmurx tapplika biex tibni djar u mhux imbarazz, gzira mlejtha zibel! Ara tghidtx li thobb lil pajjizek ukoll ghax imbad veru tkun l ikbar ipokrita!

Maria C. Xuereb
Maria C. Xuereb
3 months ago

Ghsliex il preskrizzjioni ma tissemhiex meta dak li jkun irabbi dritt minhabba zmien u jintileff id dritt ta dak li jitlghob it titlu.??

Francis Darmanin
Francis Darmanin
3 months ago

Miniex cert, imma nahseb ir-raguni hi din, illi wiehed jista jiregistra propjeta kwalkwe hin, anki jekk ikun xtraha jew wiritha mitt sen’ ilu.

M. Galea
M. Galea
3 months ago

M ghadux l kaz suppost ghax ricenti fi zmien Gonzi jidirli li biex tirregistra art trid turi li hi tieghek, ghax qabel wiehed setgha mmur jirregistra bicca art minghajr ma juri xejn! Imma fejn iridu taht dal gvern kollox qed isir!!

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