Comino deckchair concessionaire now also ferry service shareholder

Daniel Refalo, one of the two concessionaires offering the controversial deckchair hiring services at Comino’s Blue Lagoon, has strengthened his business ties on the island by acquiring shares in Blue Lagoon Ferry Co-operative Ltd.

Refalo joined a handful of other shareholders in the Comino ferry cooperative, which provides the only scheduled ferry crossing to the island. This boosts the deckchair and umbrella business he operates, mostly irregularly, on public land.

The Shift is informed that Refalo – a close business partner of Gozitan property tycoon Joseph Portelli – bought the shares from one of the cooperative’s partners – two brothers from Mgarr – known as ‘tal-Mitalla’.

Left: Daniel Refalo, Right: Mark Cutajar, Background: Blue Lagoon, Comino.

Together with his ‘rival’ competitor, Mark Cutajar, brother of Labour MEP Josianne Cutajar and canvasser of Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri, the two individuals control most of the lucrative business in and around the Blue Lagoon, one of Malta’s most popular tourist spots.

During the peak of the summer season, thousands of tourists are estimated to visit the Blue Lagoon daily.

“No one is so crazy to throw away money. Refalo knows what he is doing and that through his ferry involvement, he is consolidating his business interests in Comino”, sources told The Shift, adding that Refalo must be confident that he will retain the deckchair concession. 

Cutajar and Refalo’s concession for encroaching on public land to rent deckchairs and umbrellas expired in 2021, and they have since been operating their deckchair business irregularly.

Still, despite promises by the Prime Minister and Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo that a competitive tender would be issued to regularise the situation, nothing happened.

Instead, Cutajar and Refalo keep conducting their business year after year through an irregular extension given by the Malta Tourism Authority on the minister’s direct instructions.

Bartolo justifies this irregularity, using several excuses, including the pandemic and an ongoing study which was to be finalised two years ago.

Legal sources told The Shift that the tourism minister’s extensions may be illegal. However, no challenge has been presented in court so far.

In 2022, NGOs led by Moviment Graffitti organised protests against Refalo and Cutajar’s illegal occupation of public land at the Blue Lagoon.

Despite the minister’s promises to regularise the situation, no enforcement was done, and the popular bay returned to its chaotic state.

Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo, who had promised a masterplan for the island, has never delivered. He also has a personal interest in the status quo as his father operates ‘Oh Yeah Malta’, one of the companies based in Mellieha that organises daily trips to the Blue Lagoon.

                           

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4 Comments
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Jay Ho
Jay Ho
5 days ago

Every year we have the same intolerable situation, and every year as the fat cats get fatter, and the pigs keep pigging out, the same excuses, lack of action and the same squeezing of the Maltese out of every space on our own islands.

carlos
carlos
5 days ago

mafiamalta – do not expect any better from the corrupt muvument .

Joseph
Joseph
5 days ago
Reply to  carlos

Yes Malta has become the perfect Mafia style organization.

Adrian Callan
Adrian Callan
5 days ago

All tied up to the neck together

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