The Planning Authority has updated its enforcement notice against the owners of the Aria Complex nightclub, better known for its past name as Vibes, in Iklin, after 13 years of allowing illegal developments as the club continued to expand and turn over millions of euros a year.
In what can be considered to be one of the most blatant cases of state-sponsored impunity, where developers and businessmen do as they please despite the country’s laws, the owners of Aria Complex spent the last years turning a once tranquil area into a massive night club adding, in a piecemeal fashion, illegal amenities and expanding their business.
Abetting these illegalities were several architects, engineers and other professionals who offered their services despite knowing they were working on serious illegalities.
In the latest PA development on the mostly illegal complex, a new enforcement notice updated another enforcement notice issued by the same PA in 2009, more than 13 years ago. In all these years, the PA did not take any direct action to rein in the illegalities or take the case to court as it is permitted to do in such cases.
According to the latest notice, published in the Government Gazette, the PA ‘informed’ the persons responsible for the complex, Dominic Micallef and Ray Desira, of the various illegalities they have committed over recent years.
These include the removal of a large parking lot and its transformation into a dance floor and the expansion of the club covered by an illegal tent. The illegalities are so large that they permitted the complex’s operators to divide the venue into two separate clubs illegally.
Also, according to PA, other illegalities include the building of a pool without a permit – now being marketed as the venue for ‘Fresh Water’ parties – as well as illegal toilets, offices, storage rooms, bars and DJ stands; the removal of soil and paving of large areas with decking and tiles, the erection of another illegal structure of a steel roofed dome with corrugated sheeting, new illegal accesses in various parts of the building and illegal sign on the building’s façade.
The site against which the PA issued the update does not mention the commercial enterprise by its name, the Aria Complex, but only ‘Ta’ Gnien Fonsu’.
Given all these illegalities, done in broad daylight over several years, the PA is imposing a fine of €50 a day as punishment until it is either sanctioned or the illegalities are removed.
However, making the whole enforcement process ludicrous, the paltry €50 daily fine is not even paid if the owners of such illegalities apply to sanction illegalities or file an appeal. Fines are capped at €50,000, according to the law, no matter how long the illegalities remain in place.
This is exactly what the Aria owners have done, with the PA now considering an application sanctioning all the massive illegalities in one go.
Research conducted by The Shift shows that while Ray Desira does not appear to own Aria, Dominic Micallef is a notorious name in the industry.
While he is the owner of the Aria Complex, the relatively young entrepreneur is more associated with the former Tattingers nightclub in Rabat, which he now obtained a controversial permit to turn into a hotel. His architect, in that case, was former PN Minister Jesmond Mugliette, who was given various appointments by Labour in the past years.
Dominic Micallef, considered very close to the Labour Party, is also the CEO of his own Signature Entertainment Group. He is involved in various entertainment events, including the Unite with Tomorrow Land brand, regularly sponsored through handouts by the Malta Tourism Authority.