Two men abusing rules to pack in foreign workers in Sliema apartment hunted for unpaid debts

Two men, who, until a few weeks ago, operated an apartment in a prime Sliema area as an illegal dormitory, exploiting dozens of Nepalese and Indian migrants, are being pursued by various companies for significant unpaid debts.

Peter Frendo, who, according to the apartment’s owners, was the brains behind this exploitation, last February was found guilty by the Civil Court of failing to make payments on several Banif Bank loans and ordered to pay almost €1.5 million in outstanding debts.

Frendo, 41, registered as living in Għargħur, and until a few weeks ago, a franchise owner of real estate company Alliance, admitted non-payment of the loans.

In a separate case instituted by real estate agency Belair, Frendo was also found guilty last July of not honouring a payment of some €65,000 in commission owed following the sale of a property.

Once again, Frendo did not contest the claim and was ordered to pay his outstanding dues.

Peter Frendo on his boat.

The Shift is also informed that Frendo is also being sought by other companies and the Tax Commissioner for various other outstanding payments running into tens of thousands of euros.

Meanwhile, the apartment owner in Sliema’s prestigious George Borg Olivier Street, Twanny Bugeja, also faces financial trouble. The court has asked his company, Allwoods & Steel Properties Ltd, to pay EPG Financial Services Ltd an outstanding payment of more than €51,000.

While the two are being pursued to pay their outstanding debts, The Shift reported how, through an apartment in Sliema, they were exploiting low-wage third-country nationals by renting them a bed for €250 a month.

Bugeja and Frendo packed the three-bedroom apartment with more than 40 low-wage foreign workers, raking in some €10,000 a month. At one point, two flats in the same block were being run this way while residents’ complaints fell on deaf ears.

Bugeja, the owner of the apartment, had shrugged off any responsibility and insisted that the apartment’s original tenant, Frendo, was packing his apartment with foreign workers. Yet it seems Bugeja was aware of what was happening inside the apartment.

On his part, Frendo defended his actions and said that all was being done according to the rules.

Soon after The Shift’s report, the Planning Authority issued an enforcement notice against Bugeja’s company, Allwoods & Steel, and Frendo for turning a residential unit into an illegal hostel without a permit.

The apartments were emptied shortly after.

The Shift reported how Bugeja’s son, Karl, a shareholder in the same company owning the apartment, was an insider of the Labour Party and has worked with various government ministries over the past years.

Karl and Twanny Bugeja.

Similar exploitation of low-wage third-country migrants has been reported in many other parts of the island, with small apartments and houses hosting tens of residents in very precarious and unhygienic conditions.

So far, the authorities have taken little action to ensure laws are followed by landlords or those engaging in exploitation are brought to justice.

Right of Reply received from Twanny and Karl Bugeja

Anthony Bugeja and Karl Bugeja, would like to make reference to the article published on 14 September 2023 at 07:36 titled, ‘Two men abusing rules to pack in foreign workers in Sliema apartment hunted for unpaid debts’:

The title of the article states that “Two men abusing rules to pack in foreign workers in Sliema apartment hunted for unpaid debts” is misleading and incorrect on two counts:

Firstly, the apartment was let by Allwoods & Steel (Property 2) Limited to Mr Peter Frendo who consequently sub-let it to foreign workers. Neither Anthony Bugeja, nor Karl Bugeja were aware of the number of persons residing in the apartment, and this as shall be explained in this right of reply being exercised by Anthony and Karl Bugeja.Secondly, the title of the article implies that Anthony and Karl Bugeja are being hunted for unpaid debts. There is absolutely no one hunting Anthony and Karl Bugeja for any unpaid debts.

The article later states that “the apartment owner in Sliema’s prestigious George Borg Olivier Street, Twanny Bugeja, also faces financial trouble. The court has asked his company, Allwoods & Steel (Property 2) Limited, to pay EPG Financial Services Ltd an outstanding payment of more than €51,000.”The Court has first and foremost not asked (at most, a court would order, not ask) Allwoods & Steel (Property 2) Limited to pay anything, and  having said that, nor has EPG Financial Services Limited asked the Court to make such an order.

On the contrary, it is Allwoods & Steel (Property 2) Limited that is asking the Court to order EPG Financial Services Limited to pay it the total sum of € 57,112. This was again, very easily verifiable by The Shift in the course of their investigation. The case in question is currently pending before the Rent Regulations Board.

With reference to the main point in the article about the persons residing in the Sliema apartment, whilst being aware that Mr Frendo was sub-letting the property, as was his right to do, Anthony and Karl Bugeja were absolutely not aware that there were 37 persons residing in it.

After this case became public through other media outlets, Anthony Bugeja was contacted by the Planning Authority and the Environmental Health Authorities who requested that action be immediately taken to remedy the situation, and this apart from issuing Enforcement Notices as soon as the report had been made. Various other authorities later made contact with Anthony Bugeja as well.

Contrary to what is written in the abovementioned article published on this website, Mr Bugeja did not shrug off responsibility but exercised his rights at law and judicial action was immediately taken against Mr Frendo.

A judicial letter (2443/2023) was filed on 9 June demanding the termination of the lease agreement and for Mr Frendo to return the keys to the apartment. Since this proved to be unsuccessful, a claim was filed before the Rent Regulations Board requesting the eviction of Mr Frendo, the return of the keys and the payment of damages suffered to the apartment. The application bearing number 379/2023JG has been scheduled for a hearing on 4 October 2023 at 13:30pm. All of this information is public information which could have been, and still is, easily verifiable.

As of the date of this news article, there is no active enforcement notices against the property in question, whilst the case before the Rent Regulations Board whereby Mr Frendo’s lease agreement is terminated is, as explained above, still pending.

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12 days ago

So far, the authorities have taken little action” That IS the norm under the MLP.

Donald Bezzina
Donald Bezzina
11 days ago

The law is an ass…..

11 days ago

Why does this remind me of a whole complex built at Hal Farrug with everything from a “Palace”, to a hostel, to a zoo , with no permits and tens of millions in tax arrears…

Let’s be honest, all our administrations are pretty useless in the face of business interests.

11 days ago

Shameful, utterly unbelievable

10 days ago

This is a political attack! I am 100% Nationalist but this is just bringing someone I love dearly down unjustly. I know the full story. He is not a crook nor was he exploiting anyone. The tenants can only afford this type of housing because of the people who employ them and pay them peanuts. That is exploitation!! Instead of being on the streets, Peter provided them somewhat decent accommodations. If you all are so foolish to believe he made 8000euros in profit, you are crazy. he had to pay all his expenses and rent, etc. Every time he was able to, he helped people. He is an outstanding guy who was hit by the economic crisis which hit many people over the last few years. Accusations like this just make it harder for him to do. This is all unfair and he is clearly being used and being made an example of. He is an honest, hardworking man with a heart of gold.

Last edited 10 days ago by Daniela
Caroline Muscat
10 days ago
Reply to  Daniela

Calling this a political attack while announcing you’re a Nationalist says more about your frame of mind than it does about our reporting. We don’t know his political leanings and neither do you know ours. A newsroom is not made up of one individual. The facts in the story speak for themselves and we don’t care if he’s Nationalist or Labour. The same story would have been reported because there’s a lot that’s wrong with this.

8 days ago
Reply to  Daniela

if he wanted to help them he wouldn’t ask them for money and he wouldn’t let 40 people live in an apartment in an undignified way like animals, but he would have looked for other apartments with adequate space and would have given them for free.
don’t try to defend the indefensible, in addition to the laws on apartment tenants which are obviously not respected on this island there are also human laws.

Sandro Musu
Sandro Musu
8 days ago
Reply to  Daniela

If he’s such a good man, why didn’t he house them for free at his own place of residence ? If you call that decent accommodation, then you don’t know the full story !!!

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