The lack of action by the authorities against the exploitation of cheap labour market workers at a Sliema apartment that has been turned into an illegal dormitory hosting some 40 people may be linked to the fact that the building is owned by a government insider.
After reporting that the apartment on Sliema’s George Borg Olivier Street has been turned into a cheap illegal dormitory with its occupants – mostly Indian and Nepalese nationals who are paying €250 a month for a single bed – The Shift discovered that the apartment’s owner is a company with close connections to the current administration.
The apartment is one of four owned by Allwoods and Steel (Property 2) Ltd, which is, in turn, owned by Attard resident Anthony Bugeja and his two children Karl and Thea Bugeja.
Karl Bugeja has been working within the private secretariats of a number of ministries since Labour’s return to power in 2013, including as the Home Affairs Ministry’s coordinator.
The Shift is also informed that, until a few months ago, Karl Bugeja was also serving as Malta’s consul to Doha, Qatar, where the abuse of cheap labour is the order of the day.
One of Bugeja’s publicised visits while in Qatar was to establish good relations with VFS Global, a company that processes passports and visas.
The 32-year-old political appointee of the Foreign Minister was then recalled to Malta for unknown reasons along with his then ambassador. The Embassy is currently without an ambassador.
Until 2013, Karl Bugeja was an official of Pulse. After graduating in social policy, he joined the government as a political appointee and hopped from one ministerial private secretariat to another until his diplomatic posting in Doha.
When contacted to explain how he had turned a residential apartment on a quiet Sliema street into a residence to exploiting low-paid third country nationals, Bugeja’s father Twanny shrugged off responsibility and insisted it was his tenant Peter Frendo, a real estate agent and Alliance franchise owner – who was packing his apartment with foreign workers.
He did not say whether Frendo had his permission as the landlord to use the apartment as an illegal dormitory.
Following intense pressure and months of reports, including from Sliema Mayor John Pillow, the Planning Authority was forced to issue an enforcement order that was accompanied by daily fines of up to €50 a day against the company.
Still, the abuse is ongoing, and the Planning Authority has not yet chosen to directly intervene and have the place cleared, which it is empowered to do by law.
All previous complaints to the police, the Housing Authority, the Occupational Health and Safety Authority and the Health Department had somehow been ignored.