At a press conference convened Thursday morning on the site of the Kordin construction site tragedy that claimed the life of 20-year-old Jean Paul Sofia, the opposition Nationalist Party backed the victim’s family’s call for a public inquiry into the circumstances leading to the collapse and said it was a better option for addressing the industry’s ailments than the current magisterial.
Jean Paul Sofia died in a building collapse on 3 December in what was to be a timber factory that was being illegally built on government property by Serbian contractors for Maltese developers with a criminal past and connections to the Lands Authority.
PN leader Bernard Grech called for a public inquiry to be held instead of the ongoing magisterial inquiry, arguing that such an investigation would be all-encompassing and able to identify faults and deficiencies in the system, regulations and enforcement – rather than simply pointing a finger at who is to blame.
Grech said that the opposition will be presenting a motion in parliament for the public inquiry. He said that “we have an obligation as a country for this to happen” and questioned the government’s resistance, asking “what has Robert Abela got to hide?”.
When asked whether he would back the magisterial inquiry, Grech asked for the matter not to be made a partisan issue and insisted that a magisterial inquiry would not be address all the case’s deficiencies.
PN shadow finance minister Jerome Caruana Cilia said, “A public inquiry would not just mean justice for Jean Paul and his family, but justice for the Maltese public as well.”
Cilia said that more than 90 other families are waiting for magisterial inquiries related to construction incidents involving their loved ones to be concluded.
The government land in Kordin on which the collapse occurred was being managed by Indis Malta, formerly Malta Industrial Parks. The concession was given some years ago to developer Matthew Schembri, who co-owns furniture and construction company AllPlus Ltd, along with Kurt Buhagiar.
Buhagiar is a convicted human trafficker, having served a year in a Ragusa prison in 2011. He is also Lands Authority CEO Robert Vella’s personal driver and right-hand man. The convicted trafficker was also set to receive a promotion at the authority.
Schembri, meanwhile, is currently facing court proceedings over the alleged hiring of foreign hit men for an attack on his former wife’s father on the Sliema front.
The construction on site began through a Development Notification Order (DNO), DN/00275/22, filed by architect Adriana Zammit, a full-time architect at Infrastructure Malta.
Before construction at the Kordin site began, Zammit had been obliged to file a Commencement Notice to the Planning Authority (PA) and Building and Construction Agency (BCA). No such notice was filed, making the construction illegal.
When asked about a proposed bill that would licence building contractors, Grech said he “expects the national interest to be kept in mind with this proposed bill”, expressing his fear that the new legislation might just lead to more unenforced red tape rather than real change.
Grech expressed support for other construction industry victims, including Miriam Pace, who was killed in a collapse in 2020. He said that “those responsible [in Pace’s death] are free to do whatever they please to this day”.
The architect involved in Pace’s death has filed over 100 planning applications since the fatal collapse.
It would be interesting to get to know whether the representatives of the Building and Construction Authority and the Occupational Health and Safety Authority visited the site where the building collapsed, at least for once, more so that the construction of this building was illegal. I know for certain through witnesses who took the stand in the magesterial inquiry that these two Authorities failed to visit the site! Why?
Did they have an interest not to do so?