Taxman silent as real estate agents raise PM’s purchase of ‘grossly undervalued’ Zejtun property

Tista’ taqra bil-Malti

The Commissioner of Inland Revenue is refusing to give any details of the exercise he is supposed to have carried out by law to make an independent valuation of the prime minister’s acquisition of a two-tumoli property in ODZ land in Zejtun.

He is also refusing to state whether there is an open claim against the Abelas over undeclared stamp duty.

The prime minister is also refusing to reply to questions asking him to produce the Commissioner’s valuation report on the purchase, state the name of the government architect responsible for it and whether the Commissioner had issued an assessment (claim) after this valuation.

Experienced real estate agents told The Shift that the purchase of such a property, spread over two-tumoli of ODZ land at just €600,000 is a super bargain and a rare find.

The footprint of the prime minister’s property on ODZ land.

“This must have been either some sort of present from the original owners to the Abelas or there are other factors that need to be investigated, such as possible undervaluation for tax dodging and other reasons.”

“Such a property at that price in 2017 is just ridiculous. The least that property would normally fetch on the market is nothing less than €2 million and that is a very conservative estimate,” multiple agents agreed.

An independent exercise conducted by The Shift shows that there are currently no such large properties on the market with an asking price of less than €2.5 million. According to the Remax website, one of the largest real estate agencies, a farmhouse in Zejtun on a 760 plot – one-third of the size of the prime minister’s – has an asking price of €1.2 million (see table).

The suspicions of real estate agents that the property was grossly undervalued stems from a common practice of property buyers declaring they purchased a property for less than what they actually paid to pay less stamp duty and to pass onto the seller part of the price in undeclared cash.

No action by the Commissioner

According to the Duty on Documents and Transfers Act, every contract involving the transfer of property is to be sent to the Commissioner for Inland Revenue for review. Stamp duty is set at 5% of the declared price and settled by the buyer. The seller on the other hand must pay capital gains tax.

The law also stipulates that a board would normally discuss the value of the published contract and decide whether to make its own verifications through its architects.

Sources at the CIR office told The Shift that when it comes to large properties, the valuation is deemed automatic. When the valuation is ready, the CIR is to decide to issue an assessment and in cases where the real property value is undeclared, issue a claim for the payment of the difference, together with a fine.

The property owned by the prime minister and his wife was acquired at a bargain price.

Any objection to the CIR’s action can be challenged before the Administrative Review Tribunal in court.

Investigations by The Shift show that so far there is no pending case before the Tribunal involving Robert Abela and his wife Lydia Abela.

Asked specifically to state whether a valuation report was carried out by the CIR on the contract as declared by the prime minister, the Director for Property Tax, Josette Galdes, refused to reply.

Neither did she want to state who the architect responsible for the valuation was and whether the department has opened a claim on this file.

Galdes told The Shift she is precluded from divulging such information, even though the same law allows discretion over this issue by the Inland Revenue Commissioner.

The prime minister’s massive property enjoys unobstructed views.

No loans and unexplained wealth

The Shift has already revealed that Robert and Lydia Abela signed the contract to take possession of the Zejtun ODZ mansion on July 10, 2017, just five days after the Planning Authority published its approval of the permit, sanctioning a large number of illegalities on the property for a fine of €45,000. The contract was signed by Notary Dorianne Arapa.

While the PA has so far refused to reply to The Shift on whether the fine has been paid, it was also revealed that the final contract for the property was paid without the need for the Abelas to get a bank loan.

By the date stipulated in the contract, the Abelas had already forked out €510,000. A special privilege (ipoteka) on another €90,000 was cancelled by February 2018, again without the need for a loan.

Robert Abela’s yacht needs tens of thousands a year to maintain and operate.

During the time that the original owners, Joseph and Alfrida Camilleri from Marsascala, were seeking the sanctioning of their massive property, Abela and his wife were acting as legal advisors to the PA and raking in some €17,000 a month.

Currently, no works have been started on the refurbishment of the Zejtun property and the Abelas are still residing at a seafront penthouse in Marsascala. The prime minister and his wife also own a large farmhouse in Xewkija, Gozo, in which they are also building a large pool following another Planning Authority permit.

Abela also bought a large Azimut 50 Fly yacht two years ago, which has an estimated value of some €300,000 and needs tens of thousands a year to maintain and operate. The boat consumes some 200 litres of fuel per hour.

In his latest declaration of assets, the prime minister, in his mid-40s, declared no outstanding loans with any banks.

                           
                               
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Lorraine
Lorraine
1 month ago

Robert Abela is the only Member of Parliament who did not declare his income for years 2019 and 2020. He was obliged to do so in the Declaration of Assets. Why? What is he hiding?

Fabio
Fabio
1 month ago

No wonder Robert Abela kept defending Konrad Mizzi. He is even more corrupt!!

Mario
Mario
1 month ago

Not in Malta

Carmelo Borg
1 month ago

Profs Cassola nahseb ghandek kas iehor ta ???. Int trid tkun biex tiehu dawn affarijiet bis serjeta.

Godfrey Leone Ganado
1 month ago

This property could also have been purchased by the Abela’s, as ‘nominees’ with a private agreement, as Lorry Sant was known to do.
Apart from the tax issues, this system would be a ‘transit vehicle’ for money laundering. This means that, when the Abela’s sell the property, they will sell it at market price and would thus clean the undeclared value on the original contract example: 2.5 million less 600,000. In this case, the Euro 2.5 million can go directly to the bank without any questions asked.
One other important observation, is that the property is not lived in, and this begs the question: “could the Abela’s have purchased the property and are holding it as nominees for a Russian client, who could have purchased a golden passport through Robert/Lydia Abela?”

Mark Mallia
Mark Mallia
1 month ago

Oh please; come on!!

It seems you are a conspiracy theorist guru.

With the same reasoning, he might be holding it directly for Trump or Putin himself. Hell, for all we know he is an oligarch operating undercover and informing on Malta to his mother nation, Russia!

Pft. Ridiculous. 

As a neighbour of his parents, where he grew up, I can confirm that his family have always been wealthy. Mostly thanks to Nationalist governments and the work his father did as a lawyer. Maybe the corrupt PN back then was paying the PM’s father?! 🙂

Inheritance played a part too. 

Those who know the Abela family know what they stand for and how they live. Humbleness, generosity and charity are what define them. Like it or not, that is fact.

P.S.

Kevin
Kevin
1 month ago

Just like Ian Borg. Purchasing property at a fraction of its real value. Capcap Gahan

M.Galea
M.Galea
1 month ago

Abela huwa korrot mil kbar ! X ma jkunx konsulent tal hmieg l iehor u itih pariri ta hmieg galor!

Noel Ciantar
Noel Ciantar
1 month ago

When it comes to property bargains, nobody beats Ian Borg, who was the new incoming Planning Minister in July 2017 when the PA sanctioned the illegalities at Robert Joseph Mvscat-Abela’s the “Cinja” mansion.

In January 2014, Borg “bought” half a tumola (circa 683 squared meters) of rural land at the Santa Katerina rural settlement (Rabat, Malta) for Euro 11K. At that price, he could have bought the equivalent of Robert Joseph Mvscat-Abela’s two tumoli at Euro 44K.

In May2014, Borg also bought an old farm complex, adjacent to the other land, overlooking the Santa Katerina valley, for the price of Euro 213K.

The property is part of the historic Gnien tad-Dahla, also known as Tal-Musmar.

And what a musmar (nail) in Ian Borg’s backside it proved to be ever since he bought it.

The entire property was bought for less than a quarter of a million Euros.

Thereon, Borg built his “matrimonial home,” consisting of two overlying duplex apartments, and a basement, having a total floorspace of nearly 500 squared meters of development spread over four floors (footprint of circa 150 squared meters).

In 2015, the Ombudsman declared that there was a “grave error” in the permit issued by the Planning Authority for Borg’s residential complex. The Case Officer who recommended the granting of the permit on Borg’s property was Mariella Haber, who also recommended the sanctioning of the illegalities in the villa bought by Mvscat-Abela.

The Ombudsman also described Ian Borg’s application method as “devious” because he filed the application under the name of a third party.

But Borg not only filed his application under a third party’s name, but that party made two subsequent wrong declarations about the property owner. Although the owner was Borg, the third party first declared to be the sole owner of the site, and later “corrected” that stating that the owner was Ian Borg’s father.

In 2020, Borg developed a “diamond shaped” swimming pool on the field he had bought for Euro 11K.

Later in 2020, a court did not believe that Borg did not know that an old man from whom Borg “bought” his field was a vulnerable man. The court described the acquisition transaction as a “diabolical plan.”

Both permits issued on site are under separate appeals.

I estimate that the market value of Borg’s property now is in the region of 2 million Euros, subject to the appeals.

Last edited 1 month ago by Noel Ciantar

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