Tista taqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti.
Prime Minister Robert Abela and his wife, Lydia, have acquired a large tract of arable land adjacent to their Xewkija farmhouse in Gozo to use to expand their proposed guest house, according to new plans submitted to the Planning Authority.
The plans submitted by his wife, Lydia Abela, propose converting a residential farmhouse into an eight-bedroom guesthouse. While the initial footprint of the guesthouse was just 560 square metres, the addition of the new land means it is now almost 2,000 square metres.
Sources told The Shift that the land’s original owner was a Gozitan businessman who benefitted from a government direct order to provide bed space in an elderly person’s care home to the State. They said he had initially refused to sell the land to the prime minister and his wife.
But it seems he changed his mind. The application confirms that Abela owns the entire plot on which the development is planned.
It is not known how much the Abelas paid for the land.
The Shift asked the prime minister’s spokesperson, Edward Montebello, to confirm if Abela had purchased the land, how much it cost, who it was bought from, and when the deal was finalised.
He replied, “The planning application is public, as is any deed of acquisition of immovable property.”
The original Xewkija farmhouse has been the property of the Abelas since 2012, but significant work on it only started in the summer of 2022.
The couple had been applying to carry out structural changes to use it as a residence until last year. However, they later changed their mind, applying to increase the number of bedrooms and create an indoor pool, indicating that the residence was to be used as a guest house even though they still used a ‘residential permit’ application.
Following reports by The Shift, this was later changed through a new application, filed by Lydia Abela, declaring the purpose of the development as a guesthouse.
The Shift had reported that while their most recent permit application (PA1188/23) was still pending, structural works were already being carried out by Gozitan contractors Vella Brothers Ready Mix Ltd, known as Tal-Malla.
An onsite sign citing a Planning Authority number that was never actually issued was immediately removed as soon as The Shift reported ongoing work.
For reporting the story, the Prime Minister’s chief spokesperson, Edward Montebello, launched an attack on The Shift calling the report, now confirmed, “a lie”.
The contractor is the same one entrusted with the construction of the Gozo Museum project in Victora, which has fallen years behind schedule despite the government’s approval of massive variations in direct orders, running into millions of euro.
The architect on the Abelas’ project is Joe Cassar, who was involved in the allegedly defective concrete to Skanska’s Mater Dei Hospital project.
In 2017, the Abelas also bought a large mansion on the outskirts of Zejtun, situated on land outside development zone (ODZ) for just €600,000. At the time, they were working as legal consultants to the Planning Authority on a retainer of €17,000 a month, and they closed the sale just five days after the same Authority approved the sanctioning of multiple illegalities on the site.
According to a new Planning Authority permit, the mansion will be demolished, and a new villa with extensive gardens will be developed.
Despite the seemingly low purchase price, the Commissioner of Inland Revenue did not ask for an independent valuation of the property to check whether it was under-declared for tax purposes.
In his last declaration of assets, the prime minister declared that he was earning €60,000 a year.