Roderick Camilleri, the architect who was found guilty of having caused the death of Miriam Pace, was previously hired by prime minister Robert Abela and his business partners to work on a L-Iklin property development in which Abela and his wife invested in 2017.
On 1 July, 2021, more than a year after Camilleri’s negligence had left Miriam Pace buried beneath the rubble of her home in Santa Venera, Camilleri and site technical officer Anthony Mangion were sentenced to a total of 880 hours of community service and fined €18,000.
The pair were spared prison sentences in a ruling by magistrate Joe Mifsud, a former PL candidate and journalist, that sparked widespread public outrage.
Mifsud’s reasoning earned him a rebuke from former chief justice Vincent de Gaetano over repeatedly misquoting a judgement de Gaetano had made to justify penalising the convicted men with a slap on the wrist for committing involuntary homicide.
Abela’s connection with the disgraced architect goes back to 2017. An investigation by The Shift revealed that together with their business partners Simon Buhagiar and Gilbert Bonnici, Abela and his wife Lydia had made a total of €1 million from the sales of apartments, penthouses and garages after having invested a total of €360,000 in what previously was a terraced house in Iklin.
Abela, in conjunction with his business partners, commissioned Camilleri in February 2017, when demolition and construction works on the Iklin site began. The Abelas paid for half of the total price of the house, while Buhagiar and Bonnici covered the rest. The apartments were all finished and sold off by June 2019, six months before Abela became prime minister.
Buhagiar was a client of the prime minister’s law firm in 2015 and is in the business of gas distribution, owning a joint venture with Bonnici known as Malta Gas Distributors Ltd. Bonnici is the managing director of Bonnici Group, a construction conglomerate which has received millions of euros in direct orders from the government.
In the most recent update to the tragic saga that cost Pace her life, Camilleri and Mangion filed an appeal to obtain a full acquittal from the court, news reports dated 24 July revealed. The attorney general, prosecuting on behalf of the state, filed a counter-appeal against Mifsud’s community service sentence.
Aftermath of Pace’s death
When Pace’s body was found on 2 March of last year, Abela visited the site of the building collapse, which was caused by works being conducted on a site adjacent to the Pace family’s residence under what should have been Camilleri and Mangion’s strict supervision.
While the prime minister had promised reforms to the industry and vowed to seek justice for the Pace family, as months passed it appeared that Abela was reluctant to take action as he resisted the family’s calls for a public inquiry.
Even when Abela did appoint an expert panel that was meant to review the construction industry as a whole, he was reluctant to publish the report they authored, earning further criticism from civil society, the opposition, the general public and the Pace family.
Eventually, Abela bowed to pressure on 20 January, tabling the report in Parliament as the expert panel unequivocally condemned the “several deep-rooted problems” plaguing the construction industry.
The result of Abela’s reform pledges since Pace’s death is the Building and Construction Authority (BCA). The BCA, incorporated to much fanfare by environment minister Aaron Farrugia in April of this year, was the result of years of foot-dragging on its set up.
The authority has replaced its predecessors, the Building and Regulations Office and the Building and Construction Agency, both of which were essentially set up to lead to the incorporation of the authority without any clear reason being given for the practice of setting up two entities to create another one.
Last week, The Shift revealed that the BCA awarded two direct orders worth €20,000 to former Labour minister and Building Industry Consultative Council (BICC) CEO Charles Buhagiar and three direct orders worth €30,000 to his former assistant and ex-Labour candidate Martin Debono.
The orders were awarded for work involving the drafting of regulations and codes for the industry, work which is precisely what Buhagiar should be doing in his role as BICC CEO in the first place.