Prime Minister Robert Abela has filed a planning application seeking to demolish their controversy-dogged ODZ villa in Żejtun.
Times of Malta reported in March that the property owned by Robert and Lydia Abela had been rented out to Russian passport applicants without verification that they had ever lived there.
Abela’s law firm Abela Advocates functioned as agents for the golden passport scheme at the time.
Earlier this year, MaltaToday also reported how Abela had acquired the Żejtun property in 2017 just three months after it was regularised by the Planning Authority.
Abela was the PA's chief legal counsel at the time.
The villa's previous owners had faced obstacles in selling off the property due to a number of works carried out without a permit.
Those works included extending the villa's footprint by some 352 square metres outside the development zone, when policy only permitted a maximum floor area of 200 square metres.
The unauthorised works were carried out before 1994 and sanctioned by the planning commission some weeks before it was sold to Abela for a bargain €600,000.
Times of Malta has also reported on how the retainer Abela’s law firm was paid by the PA for legal work doubled from €7,300 per month in 2013 to €17,110 in 2019.
What are the Abelas planning to do?
The Abelas’ application (PA 05626/22) is looking to demolish the existing villa and animal enclosures and build a replacement villa with a basement garage, and a pool as well as reorganising the landscaping.
It was submitted to the PA by architect Ray Demicoli on July 20.
The site, which spans some 2,000 square metres, is in close proximity to an archaeologically sensitive site where pre-historic finds have been recorded, as well as a privately-owned 17th-century chapel.
Preliminary drawings for the new villa indicate that the property will be constructed over two floors with a traditional limestone facade. The plans also include drawings for a sprawling outdoor area, including a pool, a herb garden and a citrus tree grove.
Earlier this year, the Abelas also filed a planning application seeking to sanction alteration works carried out on their Marsascala apartment.
Times of Malta’s investigation into the lease of the Żejtun villa to Russian passport buyers showed that two people from Moscow named Alexey and Natalia were at one point registered at the villa’s address.
However, a visit to the property in March showed the site in a state of disrepair with little sign of it being used as a residence. Moreover, neighbours reported that few people had visited the property in recent years and considered it to be abandoned.