PM Robert Abela earned hundreds of thousands of euros from property development

Research into his property portfolio sheds light on PM's unexplained wealth

 

Prime Minister Robert Abela and his wife Lydia banked hundreds of thousands of euros in profits from a property development investment they made together with two businessmen in 2016, the year before the son of President Emeritus George Abela was elected a Labour MP, The Shift can reveal.

Investigations by The Shift show that this investment is one of the main sources of the wealth divulged by the prime minister in his latest declaration of assets.

According to public documents seen by The Shift, the couple spent €180,000 on buying a half share in a terraced house in Giovanni Curmi Steet, Iklin. The other half share was bought by their partners in the project, Simon Buhagiar from Zabbar and Gilbert Bonnici, a director and shareholder of one of the largest road building contractors on the island – Bonnici Brothers of Burmarrad.

The €360,000 house was demolished and replaced by six apartments, garages and penthouses. The three investors then sold all the units in shell form between 2018 and 2019 for the combined sum of more than €1 million.

Within six months of the 2016 purchase, the Planning Authority had issued a development permit for the project, and works on the demolition and construction, under architect Roderick Camilleri, started in February 2017.

By January 2018, the prime minister and his partners had already started signing contracts to sell the apartments in shell form, with all the newly built units sold by June 2019, just six months before Abela became Prime Minister.

In total, according to various contracts signed, the Iklin investment netted its investors over €1 million in sales.

The prime minister’s partners

So far it is not known what business connections Prime Minister Abela has with his property development partners and what ties brought them together.

Questions sent to the OPM for clarification were ignored by Abela’s spokesman, Matthew Carbone.

Neither Abela nor his spouse appear to be involved in any other business ventures together with the Buhagiar-Bonnici duo.

However, Buhagiar, better known as Simon tal-Gass from Zabbar, a former client of Robert Abela, and Gilbert Bonnici, the son of Leli Bonnici of Bonnici Brothers, are involved in business together through a company called Malta Gas Distributors Ltd, owned by Buhagiar and of which Bonnici is a director and board secretary.

Gilbert Bonnici is also an established businessman in his own right, involved in various companies with multi-million turnovers.

Bonnici has shareholdings in a number of commercial entities, including property development companies and building and road contractors. He is currently managing director of Bonnici Brothers – one of the largest building contractors on the island and winner of several multi-million contracts and direct orders, particularly since 2013, under the Labour government.

Only last September, the prime minister paid a visit to a quarry owned by the Bonnici Group and inaugurated a €2.1 million investment in new machinery purchased through a Malta Enterprise scheme. The PA judged that the project, which entailed the building of several large concrete structures, did not need a development permit.

Robert Abela + Bonnici Brothers

Prime Minister Robert Abela inaugurating Bonnici Brothers’ new plant.

The prime minister’s properties

The Abelas currently live in a sea-front apartment in Marsascala, however they are known to own two large properties, each with a sizeable garden and pool, in Gozo and in Malta.

The Abelas acquired their 560-square metre house in Xewkija when they were in their early 30s.  They’ve now applied for and are expecting a PA permit to make substantial alterations to the property, which was already upgraded in 2017 when, through their architect Joe Cassar, the Abelas were given a permit to build a large pool in the garden.

The Abela’s property in Xewkija, Gozo

It is not known how much the Abelas paid to acquire this property.

In 2017, the pair also purchased, without a mortgage or loan, a house situated on a two-tumoli property in a rural area close to the San Niklaw chapel on the outskirts of Zejtun for €600,000.

The previous owner of the Zejtun property, which has a large pool and a duck pond, had had to apply for a sanctioning permit from the PA as many of the residence’s extensions were built illegally.

The sanction request was approved by the PA just a few weeks before the signing of the final contract with the Abelas.

The Abela’s two-tumolo estate in Zejtun

Robert and Lydia Abela have not moved into the house, nor have they applied for planning permission to make any changes to their most recently acquired property.

The prime minister’s wealth

According to his latest declaration of assets, the prime minister and his wife appear comfortably well-off for a couple in their early 40s who have worked for fewer than 20 years.

Apart from owning the three properties listed above, the Abelas declaration of assets indicates that they have no loans to repay and have accumulated some €500,000 in savings in various bank accounts.

Last year, The Shift also revealed that Robert Abela had bought a second-hand Azimut yacht for an estimated €300,000, a boat that also costs tens of thousands of euros a year to maintain. Again, no loans were taken to finance this purchase.

According to their latest income tax declarations, the Abelas – both lawyers by profession – declared a combined income of €193,478 in 2017, €145,264 in 2018 and €252,285 in 2019.

After becoming prime minister, Robert Abela’s personal income dropped and he’s now earning an annual salary of €60,000.

Legal sources told The Shift that Lydia Abela is no longer practising as a lawyer.

                           
                               
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Ġwanni Fenek
Ġwanni Fenek
1 month ago

No wonder development is unrestrained. Even the people in the highest positions are in it!

M.Galea
M.Galea
1 month ago
Reply to  Ġwanni Fenek

Mhux ovja! Ilni nghidiha zmien! Ghalhekk dal bini kollu ghax dan hu l business ta kull politiku! Jinhbew biss wara isem l izviluppatur! U lil poplu gabuh jacfetta l bini billi qalulu li l kantun kollox! U gennewh jiddejjen biex jixtri halli l business taghhom ikompli jirrenja! U l poplu paxxihom ovja! Iddejjen gahan poplu, akwista l imbarazz halli huma ikomplu jibnu w izidu l miljuni, l aqwa li gahan minghalih qed jinvesti!!

KD Far
KD Far
1 month ago

If both earn an average of €200k a year, say €150k less tax for 20 years. It means an accumulation of €3m. So I don’t see whats wrong about it. Good luck to them to be such two professional renowned lawyers.

I Borg
I Borg
1 month ago
Reply to  KD Far

That’s not the point isn’t it? First, did the PM declare truthfully his assets? Second, are there any conflicts of interest regarding the relationships mentioned in the article? If these factors remain obscure we need to continue asking questions because it’s the PM we’re talking about. All of this is taking place in a scenario of widespread cronyism remember.

M.Galea
M.Galea
1 month ago
Reply to  KD Far

Renowned lawyers? Did you know how they got their millions? Hiding their names after other developers and declaring nothing of it!

KD Far
KD Far
1 month ago
Reply to  M.Galea

I haven’t seen in anywhere in the article that any income was not declared. And if it was so? They can still declare it later on such as other politicians had done in the recent past. No?

Also to mention that the third party contractors being mentioned in the company are not Bonnici Bros but their cousins that procure generators and industrial equipment. So the business and owners are different from each other.

Cat
Cat
1 month ago
Reply to  KD Far

Didn’t you read the last verse? It says that: “Mrs Abela is no longer a practising lawyer”. While Robert Abela is no renowned lawyer at all.

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
1 month ago

I was initially puzzled by the pre-2013 election proposal, repeatedly stressed, that a Labour government would be a ‘business friendly’ one.

With the passing of time, and the way how things have since been evolving, understanding that proposal has become easier and easier every single day.

Mick Quinn
Mick Quinn
1 month ago

Another day in Mafialand, no surprises here, well done you guys you’re worth every penny
Keep digging there is tons more shit out there, nothing is going to change anytime soon

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
1 month ago

‘ It is not known how much the Abelas paid to acquire this property.’
By a research in the archives at the Office of the Notary tp Government this information could be obtained.

Graham Crompton
Graham Crompton
1 month ago

He needs to be questioned about his property empire and how he obtained it.

Gee Mike
Gee Mike
1 month ago

All paid in cash, he must be suffering from the Mallia syndrome.

Godfrey Leone Ganado
Godfrey Leone Ganado
1 month ago

Professional ethics debar them from:
1. Doing business outside their professional practise;
2. Doing business with clients;
3. Having more than a low percentage, some 5%, of their earnings earned from a single client. A group of companies is considered as one client.
Yet, many professionals carry out business activities, particularly in the construction/real estate business.

carlo
carlo
1 month ago

How about Mr Gaerty digs in rob’s annual returns? Is it only the honest worker who is always the victim.

Joseph
Joseph
1 month ago

Qas qatt ma kien hawn hallelin bil-pedigree daqs kemm hawn illum fil-politika lokali. Imbaghad jigi gahan u jilaghqlu l-qigh ta’saqajgh u jghidlu grazzi, tini u ntik.

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
1 month ago

Robert Abela is now holding the position of a prime minister and we should keep focus on how he is governing the country and how he is taking decisions to solve the difficult problems. Definitely he is not succeeding and things are getting worse and worse. Since he became prime minister the country was grey listed FATF. and was followed by the UK in placing Malta among the list of high risk countries for money laundering. This stands to reason that Robert Abela is not convincing governments and international institutions. It seems that Robert Abela is facing a problem of credibility.

Jojo
Jojo
1 month ago

Architect Roderick Camilleri, isn’t this the same guy involved in the project where the building collapsed and claimed the life of Miriam Pace? No wonder the case was handled so terribly.

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