Paul Hili, former owner of the McDonald’s franchise in Malta, has been ordered by the court to sell his home in Wardija after defaulting on a €4.5 million loan with a Swiss bank. The matter has raised questions on the valuation of the property accepted by the court in Malta, which is almost double the court expert’s own estimation.
The property consists of an old farmhouse that was converted into a luxury mansion and now includes a large swimming pool, extensive outside areas with unobstructed country views, a tennis court and several fully detached units serving as guest quarters. It also includes horse stables and an original water mill.
Formerly known as ‘Casa Sant Manduca’, the grounds and farmhouse go back to the time of the Knights of St John, who used it as a hunting country lodge in the 16th century.
The estate served as Hili’s guarantee for the loan. Following a long legal battle, which started in Switzerland and continued in Malta, the Court last month ordered the sale by auction of the property in order to allow Swiss bank BNP Parisbas (Suisse) to recoup the money it lent Paul and Angela Hili and their company T.A.M. Holdings more than a decade ago.
After the pair failed to repay the loan, the bank began the process of sending reminders, judicial letters and court procedures, leading to the foreclosure order. The sale by auction in open court of the luxuriously converted farmhouse and 12 tumoli of surrounding land is set for next November.
In 2014, the court-appointed expert – architect Kenneth Zammit Endrich – valued the house, together with its estate, at €7 million. Yet Hili argued that the property, comprising around 15,000 square metres of land in one of the most prestigious residential areas in Malta, was worth more.
Through a different architect, Karl Ebejer, Hili presented the court with a separate valuation, establishing the value of their house at almost double the original estimate.
While the bank, through its representative lawyer, Edward Debono, argued that the price was ‘ridiculously high’ and did not make sense, Judge Jacqueline Padovani Grima ordered that the sale should proceed according to Hili’s evaluation of €13.6 million.
This means that for the sale to go ahead, the court will have to find a buyer prepared to pay at least 60% of the established value.
If no buyer is found at that price, the bank will have to find other ways to recoup its €4.5 million loan, such as charging interest and other fees.
Hili will only be evicted from his house once it’s sold.