Owners of partly-expropriated property demand justice after Gaffarena scandal

The Old Mint Street, Valletta, property at the centre of the Gaffarena scandal. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

The Old Mint Street, Valletta, property at the centre of the Gaffarena scandal. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

The injustice faced by the owners of the Old Mint Street property at the centre of the Gaffarena scandal must be addressed, a government spokesman said after complaints that the owners’ cause had been sidelined.

The investigation into the scandal, conducted by the Auditor General, which revealed “collusion” between Land Department officials, Mark Gaffarena and Planning Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon, who has since resigned, led to a court case seeking to nullify the deal.

“The government has initiated court proceedings so the deal can be reversed.

“The aim is to restore the situation to how it was before the transaction took place and to put right any inconsistencies that may have resulted, including those which may have adversely affected the other co-owners of the property,” a spokesman said.

Speaking to The Sunday Times of Malta, lawyers representing the co-owners said, however, that even if the case filed by the government could potentially lead to the return of public land given to Mr Gaffarena, it might still not be enough to deliver justice to the co-owners of the Old Mint Street property, who had been cheated in the deal.

“The government must move from words to action,” they insisted.

The deal involved the government purchasing the half undivided ownership of the property in Valletta for €1.65 million from Mr Gaffarena by means of two separate contracts.

Undivided shares are co-owned, but the government never dealt with the other co-owners of the shares it purchased, effectively meaning Mr Gaffarena was paid the amount due to them, too.

Soon after this newspaper revealed the scandal last May, some of the co-owners immediately filed a judicial protest, saying the deal was intended to “facilitate particular third parties”. They have so far received no response.

The court has upheld the request for an injunction to stop Mr Gaffarena transferring properties given to him by the government. However, that is no guarantee that the owners will have their property returned.

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