An Indian millionaire based in Dubai has bought some 30,000 square metres of land – part of it in a protected Natura 2000 site – off the Gozitan idyllic Dwejra coast and has applied to redevelop a quarry dormant for decades, The Shift can reveal.
Investigations carried out by The Shift shows that Vijay Kumar Berlia, an Indian multi-millionaire who lives in Dubai and has massive business interests in various sectors including chemicals and real estate, has filed an application with the Planning Authority to rehabilitate and carry out ‘horizontal and vertical extensions’ in an abandoned quarry known as Tal-Qattara, in San Lawrenz. (The featured image shows the area the project is planning to excavate.)
The application, still at the screening process, has already been struck down by the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) as being unacceptable. But the process continues.
Who is the Indian tycoon?
Berlia’s connections with Gozo, or how he even got to know about this spot from where he lives, are still unknown.
So far, it does not appear that Berlia has acquired Maltese citizenship through the cash for passport scheme and his sudden interest in ‘investing’ in Gozo is being questioned on the island.
His choice of architect may shed some light. Berlia’s development application is being fronted by Alexander Bigeni, the same architect who submits most of Gozo developer Joseph Portelli’s applications at the Planning Authority.
Bigeni is also a former consultant to Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri and is related to the same Minister through marriage. A former PN Minister with strong international connections is also being mentioned as having ties with the Indian tycoon – The Shift has as yet been unable to confirm this information.
Berlia is the owner of The Svrán Group, “an international conglomerate of businesses” headquartered in New Delhi, which describes itself as “a leading industrial and investment house with interests in automotives, chemicals and plastics, distribution, logistics and retail, pharmaceuticals and life sciences, real estate, international trading and has a nascent presence in information technology, merchant banking and financial services and publishing.”
Berlia has set up a company in Malta, BV Enterprises Ltd, in which he is the sole director, shareholder, legal and judicial representative and secretary.
The development at Tal-Qattara
Through his application, in which he declares full ownership of the 30,000 square metre site, Berlia wants to rehabilitate the area and extend a small disused quarry by about 12,000 square metres – the size of two football grounds.
The Shift is informed that the small existing quarry, some 4,000 square metres, has been left abandoned for decades, so much so that parts of it have been completely covered with vegetation.
Until being acquired by the Indian tycoon, the site was owned by two Gozitan brothers, Teddy and Nenu Grima, known as ‘Tal-Giegu’, who have been involved in the quarrying and real estate development industry for many years.
The same brothers own another quarry, known as Ta’ Xrejjah, also in San Lawrenz, which has now been fully developed and is being used for the dumping of construction material.
In 2008, Teddy Grima was fined almost €50,000 by the Court for illegal extension of the Ta’ Xrejjah quarry and for ignoring an enforcement order issued by the Planning Authority.
In a preliminary assessment on the development application of the Indian tycoon, ERA made it clear that this is completely objectionable as the site is protected for its ecological importance and high landscape value and might also compromise the whole stability of the Dwejra area.
“The additional opening of this site to new excavation works would have a significant cumulative impact both on the landscape and on the site ecology, since important segments of these major valleys would be engulfed by quarrying activity on all sides, transforming them into compromised natural enclaves dominated by the surrounding quarries.”