Just three days after Mark Gaffarena offered to sell the State a quarter of a Valletta property he did not yet own, government architects were already assessing land he would receive in return as part-payment.

The revelation fuels suspicions that Mr Gaffarena benefited from insider information in his dealings with the government over the property, from which he made huge profit after it was expropriated.

Mr Gaffarena bought a quarter of the Valletta property – which is at the centre of a hugely controversial expropriation deal – from Tonio Mercieca on February 26.

Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon has confirmed to this newspaper that on February 13, Mr Gaffarena had already offered to sell the property to the government.

It was after the assessment was made that Mr Gaffarena bought the property

It can now be revealed that the architects’ assessment of land at Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, which was to be included in the deal as part payment to Mr Gaffarena, is dated just three days’ later, February 16.

It was after the assessment was made that Mr Gaffarena bought the property he then sold on to the government.

The deal has been defined as “the biggest scandal to hit government” by the Opposition since this newspaper first revealed details of the case two weeks ago.

New elements have emerged since then, prompting Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to state that he was seeking advice of the Attorney General on how the land given to Mr Gaffarena could be taken back.

Gaffarena given land with strategic interest

Mr Gaffarena was given €1.65 million in land and cash earlier this year for the government to acquire half ownership of a Valletta property in Old Mint Street. The deal was documented in two separate contracts, in which Mr Gaffarena was given parcels of land where he had strategic or commercial interests.

Times of Malta coverage of the story.Times of Malta coverage of the story.

The expropriation order for the second part of the property was issued a few weeks after Mr Gaffarena had acquired the property, allowing him to make a profit of €685,000.

The assessment by government architects of the value of the seven parcels of land he was given in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, Siġġiewi, Żebbuġ, Ta’ Kandja and Sliema concluded they did not amount to the value he was owed.

The government therefore topped up the amount by €500,000 in cash to make good on the deal. Yet, an independent assessment by architects commissioned by Times of Malta concluded the parcels of land he was given were worth at least double the value.

Timeline

May 31: The Sunday Times of Malta exposes the expropriation deal.

Michael FalzonMichael Falzon

June 1: Planning Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon says there is no need for an investigation as no “political hanky panky” was involved.

June 2: Times of Malta reports it was Mr Gaffarena who had offered to sell the property to the government.

June 4: Times of Malta reveals Mr Gaffarena offered to sell part of the Valletta property to the government before he had even bought it.

June 5: An independent assessment by architects commissioned by Times of Malta shows the parcels of land given to Mr Gaffarena are worth at least double the estimates of government architects. The Nationalist Party asks the Auditor General to investigate the deal.

June 7: It emerges that a member of Dr Falzon’s secretariat, Clint Scerri, had accompanied Mr Gaffarena to the Government Property Division.

June 8: The government announces an internal investigation by the unit falling under the Prime Minister’s Office.

Shadow Justice Minister Jason Azzopardi.Shadow Justice Minister Jason Azzopardi.

June 10: Shadow Justice Minister Jason Azzopardi says it was Mr Gaffarena who chose the parcels of land, which was only possible through insider information.

June 11: This newspaper shows that land Mr Gaffarena was given in Żebbuġ was strategically located behind an entertainment venue he had built illegally in Qormi.

June 13: Times of Malta reveals the seller of the Valletta property (Tonio Mercieca) faces a potential tax amounting to more than the sum he got for the property from Mr Gaffarena.

June 14: It is revealed Mr Gaffarena has more promise of sale agreements on the Valletta property and the government confirmed it was planning to buy the rest of it.

June 14: The Prime Minister seeks the advice of the Attorney General to reverse the deal.

June 15: Opposition leader Simon Busuttil demands political accountability, says reversal of deal is not enough.

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