Blatant illegalities being committed by the owner of a renowned restaurant in Xlendi, Gozo, are being constantly ignored by the Planning Authority, the Malta Tourism Authority, and the police, despite the consistent filing of reports of abuse seen by The Shift.
The owner of Ta’ Karolina restaurant, Joseph Farrugia, appears to be allowed to do as he pleases in the area around his restaurant, including blocking public passageways with tables and chairs, and his closeness to the governing Labour Party may be one of the reasons.
His eatery is frequently visited by Labour cabinet members and senior officials.
The owner’s sister, Monica Farrugia, is a prominent member of the Labour Party Executive and the recipient of various government senior posts by one of disgraced Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s chief aide and close friend, and current Enemalta CEO, Jonathan Cardona.
Her brother Joseph, who has owned the restaurant next to the famous Ta’ Karolina Cave tourist attraction for many years, was also promoted as soon as Labour was elected in 2013.
From his previous post as a government clerk, Farrugia was promoted to chief beach cleaner and was assigned to clean Xlendi beach – just in front of his restaurant and the area he uses to place tables and chairs on public land illegally.
Following the 2017 elections, it seems Farrugia needed help to keep Xlendi’s beach clean, so the Gozo Ministry recruited more beach cleaners for Xlendi, including other Ta’ Karolina restaurant staff members.
Investigations by The Shift show that Ta’ Karolina restaurant is operating with a number of other illegalities.
Apart from taking up a much larger area of public land than is permitted by the authorities to place his tables and chairs, the restaurant’s patrons are even dining in a public cave and on the passageway leading towards it. Farrugia also has an illegal canopy and illegally berths his boats, which he uses to transport goods.
Despite such a blatant breach of rules, the only enforcement order issued by the Planning Authority against Farrugia dates back a decade, when in 2012, the Planning Authority noted that Ta’ Karolina had put up an illegal tent.
Since then, as happens through the inbuilt system of rectifying illegalities, the canopy has been sanctioned and given the green light by the authorities.
While Xlendi Bay is inundated with illegalities, with most of the restaurants and bars abusing the system as the authorities merely observe the mayhem without intervening, residents who spoke to The Shift identified Farrugia as one of the biggest contraveners.
“While we constantly complain and even file reports, nothing ever happens. At least some restaurant owners try to keep their illegalities contained and clean up the mess after their abuse. But Farrugia is special as he also dumps his rubbish just outside our doors,” the residents said.
They complained that while Xlendi has become a “lost case”, they insisted that their patience with this blatant abuse, which is being “blessed by the government”, is quickly running out.