Mellieha residents ignored as Lands seals deal with minister’s ‘landlord’

The Lands Authority has approved the sale of the Mellieha Heights’ green lung to developer and MDA Secretary General Paul Attard and his business partner and fellow developer Paul Vella, The Shift can report from reliable sources.

The public land – being sold despite hundreds of objections from nearby residents – carries an estimated market value of around €12 million. It has been sold for a perpetual revisable emphyteusis of just €380,000 a year redeemable for 15 years.

This will allow the new owners to make a killing running into tens of millions of euros from the eventual development of the public land into apartment blocks.

Lands Authority Chairman John Vassallo is not answering The Shift’s questions about whether the Authority has ignored the residents’ petition against the sale presented to parliament and has gone ahead.

Vassallo, a veteran lawyer and former Labour Party candidate, is also refusing to say whether the contract with Attard and Vella has already been signed.

The Shift is also reliably informed that instructions to fast-track the land transfer have been issued to Vassallo by both Prime Minister Robert Abela and Lands Minister Silvio Schembri to have the deal settled by the time the petition is debated in parliament.

The petition was only put on the Petitions Committee’s agenda for this week after the Authority already finalised the deal. The debate is slated for 5 May.

A predetermined tender for the Lands minister’s landlord

The scandalous sale of the 4,000 square metre green lung in Il-Qortin followed a well-crafted tendering process designed to yield a specific result.

The public land in question, which had been left undeveloped by the government for more there three decades despite being in the development scheme, was offered to bidders last February with defined terms.

Instead of an outright sale, as is usually the case when the Authority sells public land, the large plot was issued on perpetual emphyteusis terms that can be redeemed after 15 years.

This means that while development plans are being prepared, permits are sought and eventually obtained and the development gets underway, the new owners will only need to pay the ground rent and not the sum they would have had to pay under normal acquisition terms.

The ground rent would be redeemed either during the development phase or when the developers start selling the apartments. That is when buyers would have to pay their portion of the ground rent as part of the total apartment price – meaning the developers are getting the land almost for free.

The tender also included one crucial condition: the right of first refusal for those who have land abutting the land being sold.

The Shift has already revealed that the only right of first refusal applicable in this case was a small portion of land sandwiched in the middle of the much larger swathe of public land being put up for sale.

The abutting land is owned by T&S Properties Holdings Ltd, which is 80% owned by Paul Attard of GAP Developments while the remaining 20% is owned by Paul Vella, also known as Tal-Ballut.

Just a few years ago, when the smaller slice of land was owned by another developer from Mellieha, the Planning Authority denied an application to build a small block of flats.

Since then, Attard and Vella have acquired the land and the Lands Authority then issued the rest of the surrounding land for sale by tender.

The minister and the developer

The land sale was made possible through the Lands Authority, which is under the remit of Minister Silvio Schembri and The Shift recently revealed a close connection between the minister and Attard.

Schembri started using an apartment in Luqa a few years ago that was built by GAP’s Paul Attard. The minister does not own the property and when asked for rental receipts, he ignored all The Shift’s correspondence.

Paul Attard has also refused to state whether he was doing the minister a favour by letting him use the Luqa property as a constituency office.

Schembri has also refused to answer questions on the subject in parliament although he admitted he was using taxpayer-funded members of his private secretariat to staff his private office.

Following calls for an investigation by the Standards Commissioner and weeks of complete silence, Schembri last week suddenly came out saying that he leases the offices obtained from Attard and another in Siggiewi from another development magnate Anton Camilleri, known as tal-Franciz.

Schembri has so far not produced his lease contracts and proof of payment, stating only that he will do so soon.

Prime Minister Robert Abela has ignored The Shift’s questions about Schembri’s conduct at the with Lands under his remit and his many conflicts of interest.

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1 month ago

Mela din l art pubblika inbieghet li kuntrattur privat biex ikompli jistghana.
Biex appartment iz zghazagh Maltin ikollhom jissallbu hajjithom biex forsi jixtruh u ihallsuh.
Dan huwa l Labour tal lum is Socjalizmu tad DEMEL, flok jghin liz zghir ikollhu appartment li jiflah jixtri jghin li min qed jiffanga jkompli jiffoxxna.
Vera Gvern tad DEMEL.

D. Borg
D. Borg
1 month ago

The Land Authority Board members, together with the Minister and Prime Minister, need to be sued on a personal basis.
At this stage they do not care about votes – we’re in ‘populating family’s assets asap’ greed mode.

1 month ago

Schembri is the epitome of arrogance, contempt and scorn for the public. The Maltese people own that land, and it’s our right to know what Schembri’s doing with it.
He feels no obligation to inform us, the owners, what’s he’s done with it. That is pure arrogance.

That land in Mellieha that Schembri’s giving away to construction magnates belongs to us all. It’s not his to give away in return for personal favours.

And what has PM Abela done about it? Has he chastised Schembri? Has he forced him to reply to questions? Has he investigated him? No, he just let him mock us with his arrogance and his smirk.

1 month ago

Obviously the Mellieha residents didn’t offer a nice big brown envelope to the little boy who ru(i)ns the ministry, like the developers(sic) did!

carmelo borg
1 month ago

Jekk il BOBBY qed jaghmel jew ghamel ghar minnu kif jista ikelmu

Paul Pullicino
Paul Pullicino
1 month ago

Only corrupt politicians do corrupt deals.

Anthony Nani
Anthony Nani
1 month ago

Li niskanta hu kif favuri bhal dawn johorgu ghal-prezz tant baxx bhal kirja b’xejn ta’ uffiċċju. Kien hemm żmien meta Ministru, biex johrog permess ta’ lukanda, kien jitlob sular sħiħ u mhux kirja b’xejn ta’ uffiċċju.

Last edited 1 month ago by Anthony Nani

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