The Lands Authority is refusing to provide information about its links to Simon Muscat, owner of a small fuel station in Gzira that the authority wants to relocate to the Council of Europe Garden, the only remaining green lung in an overpopulated area.
Several weeks ago, the Lands Authority informed the Gzira local council that some 1,000 square metres of the seafront garden is to be allocated to the relocation of a fuel pump owned by Manoel Island Service Station Ltd, which is just 100 metres away from the green space.
The Labour-led local council is opposing this decision and is now contesting it in court, accusing the Authority of ignoring the needs of residents.
Asked to state whether there are any commercial links between the Lands Authority and the owner of the petrol station which might explain the expediency of its decision, a spokesman for the government ignored The Shift’s questions despite various reminders.
Research conducted by The Shift confirms that Simon Muscat is involved in several other business ventures, including property development and construction.
One of his companies, Cubed Turnkey Projects Ltd, has been given numerous direct orders over the past years, including one for the refurbishment of the Auberge de Baviere – the Lands Authority headquarters —issued while James Piscopo was head of the government agency.
The Shift has established that Muscat was paid tens of thousands of euros through this public contract, but the Authority turned down a Freedom of Information request to supply invoices and receipts issued during its business transactions with Muscat and his companies.
Sources at the Lands Authority confirmed to The Shift that Piscopo and Muscat are “good friends”.
The relocation of Muscat’s fuel station has been a contentious issue for years because the government is committed to widening the road where the current station is located, but the Gzira local council is arguing that a new area should be selected away from the highly frequented family garden.
The Planning Authority has issued a permit for the relocation, but this is being challenged in court by the local council.
A concession to manage the Gżira Gardens Yacht Marina in front the Council of Europe Garden was granted to Gardens Marina Ltd — a company involving the entrepreneurs Mark and Paul Gauci of the well-known Birkirkara Gauci family — by Transport Malta.
Transport Malta has also applied for the building of a Capitanerie for the marina, with space for a restaurant on its roof. It is not known why the government entity is fronting this application, which will eventually be passed on to the concessionaires of the Gardens Yacht Marina.
Until a few weeks ago, the secretary of the board of Gardens Marina Ltd was Justice Minister Jonathan Attard. Before he was elected to parliament, Attard worked for former Economy Minister Chris Cardona, whose constituency was based in Birkirkara, the same base of the Gauci entrepreneurs.