Objections have been filed with the Planning Authority against proposed structural changes to a large, abandoned villa in Baħrija surrounded by unobstructed open sea and country views on a promontory.
However, unlike similar representations, objectors are insisting that the rundown villa, named Ix-Xabbattur, should be left untouched due to its “historical national and international value”.
Research by The Shift shows that the villa, built by Dom Mintoff for his personal use when he was prime minister in the 1970s, hosted, at least for a year, Kim Jong-Il, who later became the despotic supreme leader of North Korea, better known as ‘Dear Leader’.
Jong-Il, the son of North Korea’s ‘Great Leader’ Kim il-Sung, had come to Malta in his youth for a whole year to learn English. While Kim’s time in Malta was top secret, it is known that he was put up by Dom Mintoff at the Baħrija villa, which was watched day and night by members of the North Korean secret service.
It has also been established from various historical sources, reported even in The Guardian, that through his friendship with Kim il-Sung, Mintoff had also acted as a mentor to the North Korean leader, who took power in 1994 and remained in power until his own death in 2011.
The current North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un is the son of Jong-Il.
In exchange for his hospitality, which included one-on-one tuition with Prof Daniel Massa from the University of Malta, Mintoff established a cosy relationship with the North Korean dictator, who had even signed a secret agreement with Malta to provide Mintoff’s government with arms and military training.
Little is known about Ix-Xabbatur or how the vast land surrounding it was acquired by the late Labour leader.
While no documents exist to show the villa’s construction was covered by any development permit, the area where Mintoff built the getaway was classified as a green area, or Outside Development Zone on today’s terms.
According to the Mintoff biography penned by Dominican friar Mark Montebello, Ix-Xabbatur in Bħhrija, together with l-Għarix in Delimara, were hide-outs Mintoff used for his “escapades” when he was at the height of power.
It is documented that the former socialist leader had a substantial amount of property worth millions in today’s market prices.
The current application for structural changes to the villa was filed by Carmel Gatt, who claims to be the site’s owner. It is unclear how he acquired the large ODZ site or from whom.
According to one objector to the plans, the villa should be scheduled for its historic value and be turned into a museum “on the life of despotic dictators and Malta’s friendly relations with Pyongyang”.