The Kordin timber factory that collapsed last Saturday, claiming the life of 20-year-old JeanPaul Sofia and seriously injuring another five, was being built illegally on government property.
According to a fast-tracked permit, known as a Development Notification Order (DNO) issued last June, the construction project could only proceed if the architect involved, Adriana Zammit, had first filed a Commencement Notice with the Planning Authority and obtained the necessary clearance from the Building and Construction Agency (BCA).
The law states that a failure to present this notice would mean the permit had never been ‘activated’ and any construction would be deemed illegal.
Following days of research and queries, The Shift has confirmed the project’s architect failed to observe the requirements of the law while construction work was ongoing for several months.
When contacted for a copy of the Commencement Notice, which is supposed to be a public document, a spokesperson for the BCA first said the government agency did not know whether the Commencement Notice was available to the public. When given the permit number by The Shift, the spokesperson said it was a Planning Authority matter and promptly hung up.
When The Shift insisted on seeing a copy of the Commencement Notice, the Planning Authority eventually admitted: “It was never submitted”.
The Shift has reported that the five-storey brick building, which went down like a pack of cards as soon as it felt the weight of concrete being poured on its roof, was being built on government property managed by Indis Malta – the state agency responsible for industrial parks.
The building, intended as a timber factory by owner Matthew Schembri, had been under construction for several months. Yet none of the regulatory agencies – the Planning Authority, the BCA or the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA) – noticed what was happening under their very noses. Not even to check whether a commencement notice had been issued.
The verification exercise only began after the tragedy.
A Commencement Notice is required for every project and lists details of all those involved, including the developers, architect, contractors, site technical officers and the health and safety contractor.
Sources close to the ongoing investigations told The Shift that the fact that work was being carried out without a Commencement Order increases the severity of the accident that led to the death of a young worker.
“The architect and all those involved are facing serious claims that can lead to massive repercussions,” sources told The Shift.
So far, none of those involved has been arraigned as investigations continue.
The Shift has already revealed that most of those involved in the project have strong connections to the government. The developers, Matthew Schembri and Kurt Buhagiar (the Lands Authority CEO’s driver), have a colourful past linked to human trafficking and the hiring of hitmen.
The architect, Adriana Zammit, is a former Planning Authority official and is currently a full-time employee at Infrastructure Malta.
The land in question belongs to the government and was leased to Allplus Ltd, in which Schembri and Buhagiar are shareholders.
The contractors are known to be Serbian, but they are not registered. Prime Minister Robert Abela has been promising a contractor’s register for three years, but it has never been implemented.