Lands Minister avoiding reply on Valletta premises squatted by PM

Lands Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi is refusing to give a reply on whether his boss, Prime Minister Robert Abela, has taken advantage of a government scheme to regularise his illegal possession of an apartment in Valletta.

Pressed by PN MP Rebekah Borg to state whether the prime minister and his wife have applied to the Lands Authority to regularise the apartment they continue to occupy illegally, the minister said he was still checking in reply to two parliamentary questions.

The issue revolves around the possession of a government apartment in Valletta’s Strait Street, a stone’s throw away from the law courts, which Robert Abela and his wife have used as their legal office until he became prime minister in 2020.

According to the concession, the Abelas were supposed to vacate the premises in 2017, when the 150-year-long temporary emphyteusis ended.

Instead of returning the keys to the apartment to the Lands Department, as required by law, Robert and Lydia Abela kept occupying the apartment without title, using it as the premises for their private office without paying a cent.

The office in Strait Street, Valletta, illegally occupied by the prime minister and his wife.

After Abela was appointed prime minister, the office of Abela advocates was officially ‘closed’. At the same time, the junior lawyers working for the Abelas, including Ryan Pace and Ian Borg, were given government positions and put on the public payroll.

In the meantime, the Abelas retained possession of the apartment even though it is not currently in use.

Coincidentally, last year, the government introduced a new scheme launched by the Lands Department, under which illegal tenants like the prime minister were given a chance to regularise their position.

According to this scheme, the government will allow the illegal tenants to remain in possession of the government property for another 50 years against the payment of a new lease agreement based on 2% of the current market price as ground rent.

The scheme bypasses the current law, which states that when a temporary emphyteusis ends, the premises are to be returned to the government. A new tenant is only allowed after the issue of a competitive tender.

So far, the prime minister is refusing to admit whether he took advantage of the scheme he issued to hold on to the Valletta premises he is occupying.

According to a public contract, the Abelas acquired the full title of the apartment in 2013, just a few weeks after Labour was swept to power. They paid just €3,000 for the remaining four years of the 150-year emphyteusis, which ended in 2017.

The deal was struck with lawyer Ian Stafrace – now the leading lawyer for Gozitan developer Joseph Portelli.

Estate agents consulted by The Shift gave a conservative estimate of the property’s value at around €200,000.

                           

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3 Comments
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viv
viv
1 month ago

POSITION VACANT

The Republic of Malta Seeking Individual Of Strong Character and Irreproachable Moral/ Ethical Standing To Repair Inestimable Damage Wrought By Various Criminal Endeavours. Humility and Political Acuity a Must. Avarice Frowned Upon.

Apply with Vote.

Lawrence Mifsud
Lawrence Mifsud
1 month ago

Ahleb Guz!

Reality
Reality
1 month ago

Halliell ta flus il- haddiem onest
Isthi bob.

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