Tista’ taqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti
Some 12 tumolo of public land in Xewkija, Gozo, initially allocated by the government to be turned into an industrial park for the manufacturing industry SMEs, is being used as a storage facility by Gozitan construction magnate Joseph Portelli.
The original deal was struck between the government and the Ta’ Maggi Industrial Park Gozo Ltd and foresaw the construction of 76 garages to be rented out for industrial manufacturing.
Yet investigations by The Shift found they are being used as warehouses by Portelli, in breach of the deal’s conditions laid down by INDIS Malta, the responsible government institution.
Not only that, but The Shift also discovered that the director and company secretary of Ta’ Maggi at the time of the initial deal, Francis Gauci, is no longer in his position and has been replaced by Maria Agius, sister of one of Portelli’s business partners, Mark Agius, known as Ta’ Dirjanu.
A shady deal from day one
The deal between the government and Ta’ Maggi was struck in 2014, shortly after the Labour Party returned to power. It was facilitated by former minister Chris Cardona, who was, at the time, responsible for Malta Industrial Parks (MIP), an agency then replaced by INDIS Malta.
According to the unprecedented deal, MIP, through direct order and without a tender, handed Gauci the land with a 65-year concession, extendable to 99 years.
Under the concession terms, Gauci was obliged to finish the project and rent out the garages on long leases to small businesses such as mechanics, car sprayers, wrought iron workers and artisanal manufacturers.
But soon after the concession was signed, Gauci, through his company, Ta’ Maggi Industrial Park Gozo Ltd, made an informal arrangement with Portelli to transfer the execution of the project to him.
When asked, Gauci admitted this “transfer of management” but declined to state whether this private side deal with government property also involved a monetary transaction.
While Maria Agius has now taken over Gauci’s leadership position, he and another businessman with links to the Labour Party, Kenneth Abela, still appear to be shareholders.
According to the concession, Gauci and Abela cannot transfer the ownership of the concession to anyone else without written consent from INDIS Malta. Also, all park tenants should be approved by INDIS Malta to ensure the project fulfils its initial purpose.
However, sources at INDIS Malta told The Shift that no single SME is using any of the garages for manufacturing.
Instead, Portelli and Mark Agius, his business partner, have turned the park’s lower level into their private storage facility, mainly keeping building material in the garages and using the ‘park’ as a hub for their employees.
Some of the garages on the upper floor are also being used as storage facilities by private individuals and businesses with links to Portelli and Agius.
So far, INDIS Malta has not taken any action against the original owner of the concession despite the fact the conditions of the original deal are being violated.
Portelli and Agius are not shareholders of the original company awarded the concession. The original concessionaire, Francis Gauci, has resigned from the board of directors and company secretary.
Instead, last July, Maria Agius, sister of Mark, became the sole director of Ta’ Maggi Industrial Park Gozo Ltd.
Agius, 31, is also a director of various commercial entities involving her brother, Mark Agius and Daniel Refalo, another close associate of Portelli in construction projects all over Malta and Gozo.
She is a director of Agius Trading Limited, Ben Hotels Ltd, Bend Holdings Ltd, Excel MJD Limited, Joseph Agius & Sons (Gozo) Ltd, Magus Ltd and MMJ Leasing International Ltd. She is also a shareholder and company secretary of several other companies.