Transport Malta is keeping tight-lipped about why it will be spending hundreds of thousands of euros to build a restaurant that has already been earmarked for the private operators of the Ta’ Xbiex yacht marina.
The restaurant will form part of Transport Malta’s controversial 600 square metre Capitanerie development that was recently granted a Planning Authority development permit despite a petition and hundreds of objections against it.
The Shift is reliably informed that the project, located on the Ta’ Xbiex water’s edge adjacent to the town’s only garden, is to be run by the operators of the Gardens Yacht Marina in Ta’ Xbiex – Gardens Marina Ltd.
More than a third of the shares in Gardens Marina Ltd are owned by Gauci Estates Limited, which is, in turn, owned by the Birkirkara-based Gauci siblings Paul and Mark, better known as Tal-Gedida.
The brothers administer their family’s property development and business empire, which includes importing luxury vehicles and running gyms across the country. They are also frequently seen dining and yachting in the company of Prime Minister Robert Abela and his wife Lydia, particularly in Ragusa.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia is not answering questions about why Transport Malta’s entire Capitanerie project is funded by the public, not by the operators of the privatised Ta’ Xbiex marina.
In addition to office space for Transport Malta, the project includes bars and a restaurant with a large outdoor dining area at the water’s edge.
Neither did Farrugia explain if the Transport Malta investment formed part of the 25-year concession awarded to Gardens Marina Ltd in 2018.
Similar questions sent to newly-appointed Transport Malta CEO Jonathan Borg were also met with silence.
Sources at Transport Malta have suggested that the Capitanerie project was merely a front for the Gaucis’ restaurant to accompany the marina and add value to the concession.
“If you look at the approved plans, you will see that the offices are only there to justify the restaurant, which is the larger part of the development,” one source familiar with the project told The Shift.
According to those same sources, the Gauci brothers have had their eye on such a development for years. The Prime Minister and the Planning Authority have ignored hundreds of objections and a petition against the project.
Gardens Marina Ltd is also owned by F.L. Yachting Ltd and Intermanagement Ltd. Matthew Fiorini Lowell and Patrick Satariano comprise the company’s board along with the Gauci brothers.
The company’s secretary was, until recently, none other than Justice Minister Jonathan Attard.
The Gauci brothers were once known in Birkirkara as staunch Nationalist Party supporters, but after the 2013 change of government, they began canvassing for former minister Chris Cardona. Jonathan Attard used to be Cardona’s aide.
During Cardona’s time as economy minister, a car showroom in Birkirkara owned by the Gaucis was converted into offices and leased out to INDIS Malta, for which Cardona was responsible.
The Ta’ Xbiex yacht marina was privatised through a Transport Malta tender in 2018. Gardens Marina Ltd is paying an annual concession fee of around €220,000 for the 25-year concession.