The government is discreetly working on plans to come up with a new price tag for Selmun Palace and its vast grounds after it has been unable to sell the historical place and leaving it to deteriorate for over a decade.
Despite several years in which the authorities had the time to devise a proper plan, the Lands Authority has now decided to issue an urgent direct order for handpicked consultants to come up with a new valuation for the public asset.
The Shift is reliably informed that through its Valuations Committee and the direct instructions of the Authority’s Chairman John Vassallo and CEO Robert Vella, four architects have been given a brief to come up with the new valuation.
The architects selected are government consultant Robert Musumeci, as well as Bernice Van Dijk, Herman Bonnici and John Demicoli.
The Shift is also reliably informed that, instead of looking for a buyer to reinvigorate the palace as a hotel, the government is now looking into the concept of a ‘lifestyle community village’ for the palace and its environs.
To expedite the process, the Lands Authority has also engaged the Horwath Malta consultancy firm (a member of Crowe International) to assist with the process, as well as with the eventual formulation of a new Request for Proposals (RfP), which is expected to be launched by the government in the coming weeks. Horwath Malta is owned by auditor John Abela.
The Shift is informed that all the Lands Authority’s instructions on the matter came directly from the Office of the Prime Minister through Malta Strategic Partnership Projects Ltd, better known as Projects Malta, which has now been moved to Prime Minister Robert Abela’s portfolio.
Selmun Palace was used as a hotel by Air Malta until 2011, when it was closed down.
Since then, Air Malta has unsuccessfully tried to find a buyer for the palace, which, a decade ago, carried an €8.4 million price tag.
When Air Malta was later trying to balance its books after years of unsuccessful restructuring, disgraced former minister Konrad Mizzi, who has also used the services Horwath Malta for an audit on his Panamanian company, came up with the idea of selling Selmun Palace to the government in what was a clear exercise in creative accounting to make Air Malta seem like it was turning a profit when the sale was, in actual fact, State aid for the airline.
The palace was still left abandoned, with various ministers insisting over the years that they were working on a plan to privatise the property.
The last statement of the kind was made in 2018 by Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo when he told parliament that an RfP was in the works.