William Wait, the chairman of Malta Enterprise, said he did not have a hand in the approval of the factory development project in Corradino, which led to the death of Jean-Paul Sofia, even though one of the applicants was his personal driver.
In December 2022, the building under construction at the Corradino Industrial Estate collapsed, killing 20-year-old construction worker Jean-Paul Sofia and injuring five others.
The construction of the new project was given the green light by the Planning Authority. The collapse and the death of Sofia sparked national protests to pressure the government to conduct an inquiry.
Kurt Buhagiar, one of the owners of the factory, served as Wait’s driver when he was at Malta Enterprise and the Water Services Corporation, something Wait confirmed to The Shift.
“Kurt Buhagiar was engaged by the Water Services Corporation as a driver to the executive chairman (Wait). He then remained my driver until the first quarter of 2018,” Wait said.
But Wait categorically denied any involvement in the project being approved.
“I was not involved in any way in the allocation of industrial space or approval of this particular project, and in fact, it did not even reach the main board of Malta Enterprise,” he added.
“Applications for allocation of industrial space under 300 square metres, as in this case, are decided by a separate subcommittee (Investments Committee) and which I do not chair or attend to,” the ME Chairman declared.
He did not name the members of the Investments Committee that approved the application.
When The Shift asked if he had discussed the project or application with his driver at any time, Wait did not respond.
Wait was appointed deputy chairman of Malta Enterprise in 2013, soon after Labour was elected to power. In 2016, he was promoted to chairman, a post he still holds. In the meantime, he also sits on several boards of private companies, including manufacturing companies that are also clients of Malta Enterprise.
During the same time, until 2018, Wait was also the chairman of the Water Services Corporation.
Last week, during another session of the Jean Paul Sofia public inquiry, details emerged on the ‘shoddy’ way Malta Enterprise evaluated and dealt with the application for an industrial, public space.
Kevin Camilleri, the official who assessed the application for assistance from Malta Enterprise, admitted to ignoring several red flags. These included just one employee being on the books of the original factory, which Buhagiar and Schembri wanted to expand into a larger factory.
Camilleri could not answer why this was not considered a concern, and he acknowledged he did not ask for more information on the sole worker.
In addition, he said he could not confirm whether there was any furniture present at the original site.
During the ongoing inquiry, it resulted that while Matthew Schembri was the hands-on business partner taking care of the day-to-day running of the project, Buhagiar acted as the go-between to get the necessary permits and approvals through his contacts.
Buhagiar has a criminal record and spent time in a Sicilian prison for human trafficking, but was still put on the government payroll just before the 2017 elections.
After working as Wait’s driver, he joined the Lands Authority as the driver of its current CEO, Robert Vella, a former Planning Authority official.
Later, Buhagiar joined the Lands Authority as the driver of its current CEO, Robert Vella – a former Planning Authority official
The Shift recently revealed how Buhagiar also owns a large goat farm in Naxxar, developed with a number of inconsistencies and apparent irregularities.