Lands Minister Silvio Schembri is currently holding secret discussions with a group of businessmen in yet another attempt to conclude the sale of around 450,000 square metres of public land comprising the former White Rocks holiday complex in Bahar ic-Caghaq.
The Shift can report that Schembri, on the instructions of Prime Minister Robert Abela, has over recent weeks been holding one on one meetings with a number of top businessmen, including people in the top echelons of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association.
The Shift is informed the minister has taken a keen personal interest in the sale after 2016 talks led by former economy minister Chris Cardona failed when the preferred bidder failed to come up with a satisfactory offer. Talks have been on the back burner since then.
Schembri is so far refusing to divulge any details on the discussions being held behind closed doors, even to Parliament.
Pressed by opposition spokesperson for lands Rebekah Borg to explain what happened to the 2016 project and why nothing has been done since, Schembri is acknowledging that negotiations are still in the pipeline and that there is still nothing new to report.
A 2009 public call to redevelop the dilapidated White Rocks complex into a tourism project failed, with the government of the time having refused to cave in to contractors’ intentions to incorporate a real estate element into the tourism site.
A new administration in 2015, however, buckled and issued a new call for offers that allowed for real estate development.
A preferred bidder, the White Rocks Development Consortium, was chosen in 2016 but an agreement never materialised.
While the government of the time had not officially explained why talks had collapsed, it is understood they had fallen through because the consortium’s lacklustre offer was considered to have been far below the expansive site’s market value.
Among its plans, the consortium was aiming to build around 300 luxury villas on the site.
The consortium was led by MHRA President Tony Zahra in his personal capacity through Alpine Holdings Ltd. It also included veteran entrepreneur Michael Bianchi, Mizzi Holdings Ltd and the Livingstone brothers’ London and Regional Properties (L&R) company.
At the time, in 2018, Zahra had stated the consortium was on the brink of closing the deal and insisted that the bid was offering “top dollar” for the public land.
This, however, resulted to have been far from the truth as the consortium had offered less than €50 million for a site worth an estimated €350 million.
The Malta Developers Association at the time warned the government that it would not accept public land being sold for mere peanuts, as had happened just a few months earlier when the former ITS site in Pembroke was sold to Silvio Debono’s db Group.
Minister Schembri is currently involved in another controversial deal involving the sale of a green lung in Mellieha Heights to developers known to be close to him.
The Shift has already revealed that an office Schembri is using as political surgery in Luqa is located in an apartment block built by developer Paul Attard, a shareholder in GAP Developments.
Attard is meanwhile in pole position to acquire the green lung at well below market prices. He is also the MDA’s secretary general and the association has so far not commented on the Mellieha deal, which is still in the offing.
TZ has never offered top dollar for anything as his pockets are to deep for his small arms?
All want their piece of cake.
Why do you expect transparency when Silvio is negotiating the sale of White Rocks? Dik hallijielu n-nannu ta.
100:1 odds on that first businessman on the list of preferred buyers will be Zammit Tabona. Huh!
Or JP or/and stivala
It would be better if the area is giving to young persons who wants to build their house and their future in a honorable life bring up a family not working all their life to pay the loan.
How else will he be able to afford Versace.
Min jisraq l-art tal’poplu u min jisraq flus il’haddiem
Imbroljuni hallelin w assassini il- krema ta mafiamalta.