Minister has protected national heritage at home, refuses to explain

A protected early 19th century stone marker is adorning the courtyard of one of Agricultural Minister Anton Refalo’s properties in Qala, Gozo, photos uploaded to social media by his son show.

The old stone marker, with the initials VR (Victoria Regina), is considered by law to be part of Malta’s protected national heritage.  It is clearly restored and placed on a pedestal in the minister’s courtyard, just a few metres away from the pool.

The discovery of the VR stone marker inside the minister’s property was discovered by chance after pictures appearing on social media showed the minister’s adult children posing with the marker during a recent birthday party at their home. The photos were posted by Andre Refalo – the minister’s son.

Appropriating items of cultural and historical value is a criminal offence, punishable with a fine of up to €116,000 or a maximum of six years imprisonment.

The Shift has sent the pictures to Minister Refalo and asked him to explain how the British era protected stone marker ended up at his home. He was also asked to state how he had acquired it and whether he had reported its discovery to the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, as he is obliged to do by law.

A few years ago, the same minister was also chairman of the national heritage agency Heritage Malta. Despite reminders, Minister Refalo has so far refused to give any explanation.

Contacted by The Shift and shown the pictures, national heritage experts confirmed that the VR marker forms part of the country’s national heritage and retaining it in private property is a crime.

They said that, since 2016, NGO Wirt Għawdex has embarked on a project to collect these stones, reassemble them and after restoration put them back in their original spot. So far, more than 15 similar historical stones have already been put back in place.

Many VR stones used to be a common sight around Gozo until a few decades ago and were used during the British period to indicate that a particular parcel of land belonged to the government (Victoria Regina), according to Wirt Għawdex.

However, most of them have either been destroyed, particularly through development projects, or they disappeared (assumed stolen).

The Cultural Heritage Act is very clear on infringements of the law related to the discovery of items of national heritage. “Any person who receives or retains any cultural property knowing that it has been illegally removed in Malta or illegally exported from any other country” would be committing a crime and should face justice, the law states.

Upon the discovery of such a crime, the police and the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage are obliged to file a report and take the necessary criminal action against the alleged offender.

                           
                               
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doreen
doreen
2 months ago

issa tara!!! dawn il hallellin know no shame!!!! give it back halliel

Winston Smith
Winston Smith
2 months ago

You must savour the sad irony: “The same minister was also chairman of the national heritage agency Heritage Malta. ‘ I am very curious what excuse he is about to concoct.

KLAUS
KLAUS
2 months ago

I suspect that nothing will be done here – so close to the election – especially since our Robber Abela also seems to be a money launderer.

Unfortunately, we have only a fake police, which is responsible for the small fish and may not make without permission.

James
James
2 months ago

Another example of how the untouchables are just that… will be happy to be proved wrong if Gafa and his merry men arrest and charge him in accordance with the law!

M.Galea
M.Galea
2 months ago
Reply to  James

Gafa!? Haha! He is there protecting them! I said it million times the ones the police prosecuted will be free and nothing will happen to them! Mafia!! All planned!

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
2 months ago

I’m convinced that is not the only thing they touched.

D. Borg
D. Borg
2 months ago

I’m afraid you may be wrong in your assumption that the Hon. Dr. Refalo “stole” this piece of National Heritage. Some maintain that this has been in situ since the Victorian era, and the Hon. Minister simply built his abode around the Heritage marker and has meticulously taken good care of it.
However it does denote that the land on which the Hon. Minister resides belongs to Victoria Regina (i.e. government), and like Egrant’s office in Sa Maison, the Hon. Minister is simply being tolerated to occupy the premises, until any Malta Prime Minister decrees to kick him out.
Luckily the Hon. Minister reportedly has a number of other properties he can move into, thus he is not expected to end up sleeping rough.
 

Paul Pullicino
Paul Pullicino
2 months ago

A country with a culture minister appropriating objects of national heritage, a tax commissioner and a financial services head that holiday in Las Vegas with money launderers and murderers, a prime minister who refuses to explain his huge wealth. Do you know, that we’re soon getting off the grey list?

D. Borg
D. Borg
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul Pullicino

…and straight into the BLACK

Simon Oosterman
Simon Oosterman
2 months ago

Not if the alleged offender is a ‘friend’.

Austen Lennon
Austen Lennon
2 months ago

We, here in the UK, have such thefts of national property… I have challenged several myself. It is great that you have a free speech media platform like The Shift as only by exposing these people to the light of honesty will change come about..

Pat Laferla
Pat Laferla
2 months ago

What about another site inspection by the NAO at Villa Francia? Or is there nothing left there?!

Paul Sullican
Paul Sullican
2 months ago

Heqq, R stands for his surname. Might as well

L-imhallef
L-imhallef
2 months ago

Il-parlament nistghu naqilbuh Habs!

makjavel
makjavel
2 months ago

Where is the Police Commissioner in all of this?
Has he secretly resigned?

Anthony Cassar
Anthony Cassar
2 months ago

Dan il gvern ma ghandux ministru wiehed li hu wiehed li hu sura …disgrace totali !

simon
simon
2 months ago

bet you anything that they will claim that its a replica and have one made in a hurry

Chris
Chris
2 months ago

It’s not about the value of the Stone Marker. He deeply adores the memory of Queen Victoria.

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