Villa Madama was bought for €1.6 million by a certain Paul Vella from Mosta in a court auction yesterday.

The sale by auction was fixed by the civil court in May on an application by Lombard Bank. The place was valued at €1.65 million.

Villa Madama belongs to Venues Co. Ltd, which has run into financial difficulties leaving creditors, including Lombard, high and dry.

There were only two bidders yesterday: Lombard Bank and Mr Vella.

Throughout the bidding process Mr Vella was accompanied by the sole shareholder and director of Venues Co. Ltd, Anthony Abela, and his wife Nadine.

The bidding process started at €990,000 with Lombard matching the sum. Mr Vella then bid €1 million after which the bank submitted another bid of €1,050,000. The process was wrapped up after Mr Vella made a final bid of €1.6 million that nobody matched.

Mr Vella now has seven days to deposit the money in court. Failure to do so exposes him to legal proceedings by the creditors of Venues Co. Ltd. An official from the VAT Department followed the bidding process because the department is owed thousands of euros by Venues Co. Ltd.

The auction took place a day after a judge turned down a last-minute attempt by Venues Co. Ltd to postpone the sale by auction. Venues produced an architect’s report with a higher valuation of the property. It argued that the valuation for the auction was based on an architect’s report drawn up last year for another auction that was eventually declared null and void.

However, the judge turned down the request and the auction went ahead as planned yesterday.

Villa Madama is a landmark building next to San Anton Gardens in Attard and the venue of many weddings. The single storey building has a large garden attached to it.

This is the second time in a year the property was auctioned.

Last year, a creditor had obtained a court decree to recoup money owed to his company but the owners took the issue to court and the auction was eventually declared null and void because of the wrong proceedings taken by the creditor.

In 2008, HSBC Bank also applied for a judicial auction to recoup payments due to it by the owners of the property but it was called off after Venues Co. Ltd reached an agreement with Lombard.

Then, earlier this year Lombard filed a judicial letter against Venues Co. Ltd demanding payment of almost €800,000 plus interest. It later applied for a judicial sale by auction.

Villa Madama was scheduled as a Class 2 property by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority last December, affording it a high level of protection because of its architectural features.

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