Minister responsible for lands Silvio Schembri is refusing to commit himself to halting what is being viewed as a compromised Lands Authority tender aimed at giving a large tract of public land in Mellieha’s il-Qortin area to two known mega-developers for the construction of more apartment blocks worth millions.
Pressed in Parliament by Mellieha PN MP Robert Cutajar over the growing scandal, first revealed by The Shift News, Minister Schembri said he was aware of the objections of hundreds of the area’s residents but tried to shift the blame to the previous administration.
Challenged to stop the highly-controversial tender that would obliterate the neighbourhood’s green lung, Schembri avoided giving any sort of commitment and instead insisted that the land has been earmarked for development for a long time.
“The area in question has been earmarked for development since 1988 and was included in the 2006 local plan,” the Minister told the House this afternoon.
But when asked to state whether, before the latest tender, the Lands Authority had ever considered selling the parcel of public land for development in the last 30 years, the minister postponed replying by explaining that “the information is still being gathered”.
Cutajar told parliament that since the government, through its Project Green Agency, has already announced it will be purchasing private land for conversion into open green spaces, the government should bite the bullet and use the 3,900 square metre site in question as an example.
But both Minister Schembri and his college Environment Minister Miriam Dalli refused to make any such pledge, saying that there are other areas in Mellieha intended for environmental projects.
Industry sources have informed The Shift that the government’s total silence on the scandalous deal revealed by The Shift and the way government ministers replied in parliament continue to indicate that a secret deal was reached prior to the publication of the tender.
“Issuing such a tender with such terms and with a right of first refusal clause immediately rang the alarm bells for many in our industry since the tender had all the ingredients to indicate it was already a done deal,” they said.
The Shift’s report on the owner of the small portion of land sandwiched between the large tract of public land being put up for sale, with a clause allowing the former the right of first refusal, confirmed such suspicions.
Investigations by The Shift earlier this week established that a small portion of land, on which the Lands Authority has based a clause in the tender to give the right of first refusal, is owned by two mega-developers – Paul Attard, a director of GAP Developments, and Paul Vella, a director of Ballut Blocks.
The two construction moguls co-direct a company , T&S Development Ltd, which was formed in 2021.
The Shift is informed that Attard has close relations with various government ministers, in particular with the Lands Minister Silvio Schembri.
GAP Developments have been developing various areas of Mellieha Heights over recent years, turning swathes of land into apartments.
Last year, another piece of public land just metres away from that currently on offer and situated on the cliff’s edge of Mellieha Heights was also awarded by tender with the Lands Authority stating that it was to be used for bee-keeping.
One of the bidders for the tender was GAP director Paul Attard and his wife Lorainne, even though they are not registered beekeepers.
Minister Schembri was later forced to stop the tender after objections from residents who smelled a rat.
This time, to make it easier for the prospective owners of the site, the Lands Authority is not calling for an outright sale but is instead offering the public land on a 15-year perpetual revisable emphyteusis so whoever develops the area will only have to pay €280,000 a year on land carrying a market value of €12 million.
This means that the developers can eventually have the owners of their newly sold apartments redeem the ground rent themselves without them having to fork out a cent.
This will eventually mean tens of millions of euros in profits for the developers.
The Shift is informed that the tender is being led by Lands CEO Robert Vella under the direction of Minister Silvio Schembri.
So far, Prime Minister Abela has kept completely silent on the deal.
This article has been updated to properly reflect company ownership and structures.
Pull their pants down and go to the NAO with the dirt.
The NAO can’t stop deals, they need to go to court for that
More dirt from the filth- aka MLP.
This smells of corruption from bottom to top
Il-haddiem ohest u l-Poplu Malti KOLLU misruq mill-muvument korrot u dawk tal-qalba. Il-haddiem u l-onest jigbru l-frak mill-art jekk jibqa xi haga. SHAME on this corrupt skuzi gvern.