Lands Minister Silvio Schembri is not explaining how three beachfront lidos in Little Armier granted by temporary public concession years ago have been publicly announced to be changing hands – illegally and without the Lands Authority’s approval.
Schembri still refused to explain even when pressed in Parliament by Opposition MP Rebekah Borg to publish the original concession deeds for the seafront properties – Baia Beach Lido, Mambo Lido and Palm Beach Lido.
Schembri – currently in the news over another controversial concession he is aiming to award the Fortina Group – also shot down questions on who currently owns the concessions on the three waterfront lidos, how much they are paying and when the three distinct concessions come to an end.
The Shift is informed that while two of the concessions were awarded by public tender in 2005 with 50-year temporary emphyteuses, the other was assigned, also by tender, in 2011 for 25 years.
According to the law, the concessions cannot be transferred, nor can the government properties be sub-leased without the Lands Authority’s authorisation.
But in 2021 Signature Entertainment Group made a public announcement that it was “in the process of acquiring the concession of all the three lidos” and that a project there would turn them into high-end entertainment locations by 2025.
According to the private company owned by Dominic Micallef, a businessman known to be close to the Labour Party, the first concession acquired, Baia Beach, was to reopen as a Buddha Bar in spring 2022.
If this is the case, Mangion would be in breach of the law and the Lands Authority would be obliged to institute legal action against him and end the concession. No such action has been initiated yet.
Asked to state whether he has traded in public property with Micallef, Mangion is not replying and has ignored several questions sent to him by The Shift.
His response matches the stonewalling of information from both the Lands Authority and the minister responsible, Silvio Schembri, about possible underhand deals having been struck between the lido concessionaires and Dominic Micallef.
Work on the transformation of Baia Beach Club had indeed started over a year ago but was abruptly abandoned last summer and the beach remained closed.
It turned out the work was being carried out without a Planning Authority permit, which ordered it to a halt after reports from several people frequenting the somewhat remote area.
Asked to state whether he was responsible for the illegal work, Mangion did not reply. But only a few months ago he submitted a new application to sanction the illegalities.
The original architect responsible for the work was former PN minister Jesmond Mugliett, the architect Micallef normally uses.
The abandonment of work at Baia Beach coincided with reports last summer of work also being stalled at the Valletta waterpolo pitch, which Micallef was to turn into a €9 million project. The contractor tasked with the project, GP Borg, pulled employees from the site after alleging Micallef owed him hundreds of thousands of euros.
Micallef recently also had a permit to build a hotel on Rabat’s Saqqaja Hill, which would have replaced of the once-popular Tattingers nightclub, repealed by the courts.
It is the policy of this minister to do what he pleases without giving any explanation..do you remember the multimillion rent deal in Zejtun, we never heard anything more..and like that deal, he is involved in others