Land parcels in Żebbuġ given to Mark Gaffarena as part of the controversial Valletta expropriation deal are strategically located behind another plot in Qormi he was also given, Times of Malta can reveal.
The government gave Mr Gaffarena two parcels of land adjacent to each other in Żebbuġ, measuring a total of 26,223 square metres.
These are located behind another piece of agricultural land Mr Gaffarena was squatting in at Qormi and on which he “illegally” built an entertainment venue with a pool. The venue is marketed for group dinner parties as Cavett Place, despite an enforcement notice issued by the planning authority in 2012.
The lands in question straddle the local council boundaries of Żebbuġ and Qormi in the Ħandaq area. Only a sliver of land separates Mr Gaffarena’s Qormi site from the land parcels in Żebbuġ. It is unclear whether this sliver of land could be included in some future deal as happened at White Rocks.
At White Rocks, a large tract of land was split up and handed to him in two separate contracts. This brings down the value of public land but boosts the value of such merged land.
Gaffarena land is behind another plot he was given
Mr Gaffarena was given land and a financial payout after the government expropriated half of a property in Valletta, which he owned. Mr Gaffarena has a promise of sale agreement on another part of the same building. The government has already declared it was prepared to buy the second half of the property.
Times of Malta revealed the government bought half ownership of the property in Old Mint Street for €1.65 million in land and cash in two separate contracts signed in January and April. Questions were raised about the timings of the deal, the staggered expropriation and the real value of the parcels of land Mr Gaffarena was given.
This is the biggest scandal to hit the government property division since it became the Prime Minister’s responsibility
The government paid Mr Gaffarena through a transfer of ownership of different parcels of land as well as €516,390 in cash. Yet, an independent assessment by architects commissioned by this newspaper showed the parcels of land he was given were worth at least double the value estimated by government architects.
Mr Gaffarena had a strategic or commercial interest in the land he was given and the Opposition said yesterday the choice of land indicated he chose the lands he wanted.
“He couldn’t have been given these parcels of land of strategic value to him without inside information.
“That would mean a crime has been committed,” shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi said yesterday.
At this point, the actual value of what Mr Gaffarena received for transferring half ownership of the Valletta property is unknown.
Developers told this newspaper the White Rocks land alone was worth €2 million when developed because it permits the building of a villa with extensive gardens surrounding it and unobstructed sea views.
Apart from the parcels of land he was given at White Rocks, Żebbuġ and Qormi, Mr Gaffarena was also given land in Siġġiewi and prime property in Manuel Dimech Street, Sliema. This property will become freehold next year and its value will increase exponentially.
Mr Gaffarena has already applied to build 10 apartments spread over four levels, a penthouse and five garages on the Sliema site.
The Opposition said there were too many “coincidences” in this deal leading to a “stench of corruption”.
“This is the biggest scandal to hit the government property division since it became the Prime Minister’s responsibility,” the PN said.
Two investigations have been launched on the scandal, one by the Auditor General, whose office is independent and answers to Parliament, and another by the Internal Audit and Investigations Department, which falls under the Prime Minister’s Office
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