Marco and Josielle Gaffarena, the couple involved in Valletta’s Old Mint Street scandal that shook the Labour administration in 2015 and led to the sacking of the later-reformed Minister Michael Falzon, have found themselves a new business venture – renting out beds in Qormi to immigrants.
Eight beds in a cramped ground-floor maisonette in Qormi are being promoted on social media at €260 per bed, earning the couple a monthly rent of €2,000 a month for offering squalid conditions.
The post was first raised by Arnold Cassola, and further investigation by The Shift found the Qormi maisonette is owned by the Gaffarenas, who, in 2015, were involved in the corrupt deal with the Lands Authority for part of a government-owned palazzo in Valletta.
The Qormi premises is typical of the free-for-all rental market, where property owners across the island have transformed dilapidated properties into self-catering hostels without any form of licence. Such premises target low-paid immigrants working in Malta.
Josielle Gaffarena describes the Qormi property as “ideal for a group of eight people”. She also posted pictures of the €260-a-bed property, showing a room with around four beds with old and well-worn mattresses crammed tightly next to each other.
If the Gaffarenas successfully rent out all the beds, they will be making over €2,000 a month – more than double the going market rate for rentals in the same location.
The renting of a property to eight different individuals is not allowed according to regulations that are supposedly policed by the Housing Authority,
However, in this case, the Gaffarenas are emulating several other landlords who are doing the same with their properties without any sort of government action being taken.
Marco and Josielle Gaffarena are involved in many different businesses primarily related to property development.
Marco Gaffarena, who at the time of the Old Mint Street scandal was a close friend of Minister Michael Falzon and had even gone abroad with him on hunting holidays, is a shareholder in Alfaclass Developers Ltd, Gaffarena Holdings Ltd, Zebbug Property Holding Company Ltd and in an illegal petrol station in Qormi that was allowed to re-open for business by the Labour administration soon after its 2013 success at the polls.
Last year, Marco and Josielle Gaffarena lost an appeal in a court case instituted by disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat to rescind the illegal contracts related to the Old Mint Street Palazzo in Valletta.
Through the deal, the government had paid €1.65 million for part ownership of the Valletta property that Gaffarena had bought for a fraction of the price just weeks earlier.
The scandal, unveiled by The Shift’s founder Caroline Muscat, led to an investigation that stopped the funds’ transfer and protected the families who own the property from exploitation.