Malta Enterprise chairman distances himself from Jean-Paul Sofia project approval

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.

                           

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Robert Agius
Robert Agius
3 months ago

When you are top dog you take all the responsibility for everyone below you – their qualification for the posts they occupy, the procedures, the checks and a million other things you are paid to put in place and ensure the public remit is adhered to.

The minute any of the operation fails so dramatically, as in this case of Jean Paul Sofia, you assume full responsibility and resign to prepare for the ramifications of what appears to be inadequate or corrupt practices under your watch. It is as simple as that.

You are Chairman, together with the CEO, the bucks stops with you.
Getit?

Last edited 3 months ago by Robert Agius
Judy
Judy
3 months ago
Reply to  Robert Agius

Is it only in Malta that they pass the buck as no one knows anything when something happens.?

Lucas
Lucas
3 months ago

it’s incredible after everything that happens in Malta and with the verification of sensational evidence, those responsible never pay and no one goes to prison, change of what? this is the island of impunity you can do what you want no one will ever tell you anything the law really doesn’t exist!!!

Albert Mamo
Albert Mamo
3 months ago

THE CHICKEN RUNNING AWAY FROM HIS RESPONSIBILITY. TYPICAL OF A COWARD AND THEIR ARE SO MANY IN THE CORRUPT LABOUR MAFIA!!!💯👎👹

Donald Bezzina
Donald Bezzina
3 months ago

So it’s a helter skelter now away from blame. Are they going to open a criminal investigation against unknown persons then? The people are going to end up forking out money for this yet another debacle. Sofia died on public land. Settlement will be in millions.

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