Developers close to Lands Minister Silvio Schembri and Prime Minister Robert Abela have finally got their way and have managed to acquire a large green lung in Mellieha Heights that will now be turned into flats.
The development comes after the government concluded and signed a controversial contract of sale for the plot and ignored hundreds of petitioners who live in the surrounding area.
Following pressure from Opposition MP Rebekah Borg, who asked the minister for an update on the highly questionable deal, Schembri confirmed that the Lands Authority has ignored all the objections and concluded the contract with the mega-developers.
Schembri said that the contract was signed on 20 June but did not elaborate on the conditions of the sale, including the price tag, and avoided mentioning the developers behind this sellout of public land.
Sources at the Lands Authority have confirmed with The Shift that the deal was struck with a property development company owned by Paul Attard – a shareholder of GAP Developments and Paul Vella, another developer from Mgarr known as Tal-Ballut.
The 4,000 square metre public plot of land, into which hundreds of apartments can be fit, was sold for less than €400,000 a year on a perpetual emphyteusis that can be redeemed after 15 years.
This means that the developers will now have to spend €400,000 a year while developing the project. After that, they will be able to transfer the title to the eventual apartment owners and charge them the full price to redeem the title in perpetuity.
Industry sources who estimated the land’s current market price at €12 million price tag described the tender issued as being obscene and clearly intended for specific developers.
This is because instead of an outright sale, as is normally the case when the government disposes of public land, the government inserted the ‘perpetual emphyteusis clause to allow the developers to pay far less than the land’s value.
It also imposed a ‘right of first refusal’ for the Attard-Vella tandem, which was already in possession of a small portion of land wedged in between the larger parcel of public land that they have now acquired.
The two developers had acquired the small portion of land only a few years ago from a Mellieha developer who had been refused a Planning Authority permit to develop the comparatively small plot.
Paul Attard, the majority owner of the company that has acquired the green lung, is also the Malta Developers Association’s secretary general.
The Shift has previously revealed how the lands minister has been occupying an apartment he has turned into a constituency office in Luqa that was built by Paul Attard.
But Minister Schembri has refused to say whether he pays any rent for the flat or if he is being allowed to use the property free of charge.
Schembri had not declared the office as being in his possession in his latest declaration of assets. The Minister is also occupying another apartment in Siggiewi that is owned by Anton Camilleri, also known as Tal-Franciz. Camilleri has also been involved in a controversial public property deal done on Schembri’s watch.
Questions sent to Paul Attard asking him to explain whether he is lending the minister the Luqa property for free were not replied to.
Apart from the issue having been taken up by three Opposition MPs – Rebekah Borg, Robert Cutajar and Ivan Castillo – the Nationalist Party itself raised few questions on the deal and has so far not requested an investigation.