Updated 2.30pm

Five people are under arrest in connection with the death of Jean Paul Sofia, sources told Times of Malta early on Saturday morning.

The five include property developers Kurt Buhagiar and Matthew Schembri as well as architect Adriana Zammit and contractor Miromir Milosovic. The fifth person is understood to be a relative of Milosovic's. 

They are expected to be arraigned on Sunday afternoon, sources said.

A police statement issued at 8.20am on Saturday confirmed that five people were under arrest in connection with the case. 

Two of the five, Buhagiar and Schembri, filed an urgent court application contesting the validity of their arrest. A magistrate dismissed that claim on Saturday afternoon. 

Sofia died on December 3, when a partially built factory at the Corradino Industrial Estate collapsed like a deck of cards, burying him under the rubble. The site, intended to be a timber factory, was leased by government agency INDIS to Buhagiar and Schembri, who used Zammit as their architect.

Police officers carried out the arrests late on Friday night, mere hours after receiving a copy of the concluded magisterial inquiry into the incident.

Magistrate Marse-Ann Farrugia, who led the inquiry, came under fire from Prime Minister Robert Abela for the length of time taken to conclude the report.

Aside from the magisterial inquiry, Sofia’s death will also be subject to a public, independent inquiry that will be tasked with assessing circumstances leading to the tragic incident and any political failings that contributed to it.

Abela ordered the latter inquiry reluctantly, after national outrage over a Labour Party decision to vote against holding one, despite the Sofia family’s wishes, forced him to have a change of heart. He justified that decision by saying that the magistrate was taking too long to conclude her investigations.

The findings of the magisterial inquiry are expected to be made public, with Abela having written to Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg on Friday, asking her to publish a redacted version of the document.

Who are the people arrested?

Sofia’s mother, Isabelle Bonnici, has alleged corruption in the way in which Buhagiar and Schembri acquired the INDIS land lease in Corradino.

Buhagiar and Schembri set up a joint venture in 2019, Allplus Limited, and soon after received the Corradino land lease from INDIS, following approval by Malta Enterprise. 

Both men appear to be well-connected: Buhagiar is a Lands Authority official who served as a driver to the CEOs of both the Lands Authority and INDIS, while Schembri has received over 25 government contracts for various work ranging from installing and maintaining air conditioning, to removing dangerous structures.

The two also have also had run-ins with the law: Buhagiar was charged with human trafficking by a Sicilian court in 2009, while Schembri was named by police as the “brains” behind the unprovoked assault of a jogger in Sliema in 2022. The jogger is the father of Schembri’s ex-wife.

Zammit is an Infrastructure Malta architect who previously worked at the Planning Authority. Government architects are allowed to do private work. 

She was listed on PA paperwork linked to the Corradino project, which was intended to become a timber factory with offices.

Relatively little is known about Milosovic, a Serbian contractor who was carrying out the construction works at the Corradino factory. A number of workers - one Maltese, a Bosnian and three Albanians - were also injured in the December 3 collapse. 

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