The Lands' Registrar decision to accept an application which placed dozens of homeowners in Nadur at risk of losing their properties was “premature” and should have been backed up with additional documentation, a junior minister said.
Parliamentary Secretary Alex Muscat levelled this criticism in parliament on Tuesday in reply to a question from Opposition MP Kevin Cutajar.
The issue revolves around claims made by the beneficiaries of a 17th century foundation who are claiming ownership of two large tracts of land, the size of four football pitches.
Residents in the affected area earlier this year discovered that they had no legal title to their property, as the area had been registered as belonging to the Benefiċċju Ta’ Sant Antonio Delli Navarra.
The latter is an old foundation set up in 1675 by noblewoman Cosmana Navarra who placed vast lands in the east of Gozo under the foundation, set up for religious purposes.
The registration caught residents completely by surprise amid fears they could be dispossessed of their property. Aggrieved residents sought redress by appealing to the government to intervene apart from launching a petition.
At the height of the issue, which broke right before the COVID-19 outbreak, Prime Minister Robert Abela had visited the locality and promised he would seek a solution.
Seven months down the line, Cutajar asked the parliamentary secretary if there had been any developments in this regard.
Muscat pointed out that, by law, the government had no power to overrule the decisions taken by the Registrar of Lands. However, he welcomed the fact that in recent days residents had started to seek legal redress.
The parliamentary secretary remarked that he was not happy with how the Lands Registrar had handled the matter.
“In principle, he should not have accepted the application to register such large tracts of land unless this was backed up by further evidence from the applicant,” he remarked.
When the issue came to light, hundreds of people had queued outside the registry to check on their properties. The queues only disappeared when the registry closed its doors to the public because of COVID-19.
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