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GPD confirms fishing co-op presented incorrect invoices in court

The Government Property Department has confirmed that the Ghaqda Koperattiva tas-Sajd presented incorrect invoices in court

jurgen
Jurgen Balzan
12 April 2017, 10:00am
The GPD did not enforce the eviction because “the ex-recognised tenants and occupier were tangled in a sensitive court case… it was felt better to await the final judgment”
The GPD did not enforce the eviction because “the ex-recognised tenants and occupier were tangled in a sensitive court case… it was felt better to await the final judgment”
The Government Property Department has confirmed that the Ghaqda Koperattiva tas-Sajd presented incorrect invoices in court, in the case brought by a sub-lessor who was being evicted by the co-operative after it had illegally leased part of the government building.

Last week, MaltaToday reported that Lambusa Maritime Company Limited had been ordered to vacate the premises it was sub-leasing from the Ghaqda Koperattiva tas-Sajd, which was itself served with an eviction notice in 2015 by the Lands Department.

Lambusa Maritime Company Limited’s owner Angelic Mifsud vacated the building on Monday after handing over the keys to a court marshal. 

Speaking to MaltaToday, Mifsud had said that the co-op presented invoices in the court case, showing that it had paid its lease to the Government Property Department (now the Lands Authority) for 2016-2017. 

“This makes no sense. Why should anyone pay a lease which has not been renewed?” Mifsud asked.

The director of the Government Property Department, Peter Mamo, confirmed that the invoices presented in court did not pertain to the premises at 150, Xatt is-Sajjied, Marsaxlokk. “GPD have not received any payments for the property at 150, id-Dwana, Xatt is-Sajjieda, Marsaxlokk for 2016 and 2017,” Mamo told MaltaToday. 

The invoices seen by MaltaToday – presented in court to prove that the co-op still has a title on the premises – are addressed to Koperattiva tas-Sajd Ltd, Dar is-Sajjieda, Xatt is-Sajjieda, Marsaxlokk, which is the address of a separate co-operative which has a title over a structure at the other end of the Marsaxlokk seafront.

Moreover, the invoices show that the payments were made from an account belonging to Koperattiva tas-Sajd Ltd.

In June 2015, the co-operative was informed by the GPD that its lease would not be renewed, and was given up to the end of December 2015 to vacate the building.  

The GPD ordered the eviction because the 1982 agreement between the government and the co-op prohibits sub-letting of the premises. But this was breached more than once. 

The GPD’s Lands Department had investigated at least three instances when the co-op illegally sub-let the premises.

Over the years, part of the premises for which the co-op pays just €700 in annual rent, was used as a fish shop, an insurance broker office, and more recently as a fish packaging and storage facility run by Lambusa Maritime – who paid €36,000 a year for the sub-lease. 

After the eviction order, Mifsud stopped paying the sub-lease. The co-op is however still using the building, because the GPD never enforced the eviction.

Asked why the GDP has not enforced the eviction, Mamo said “the ex-recognised tenants and occupier were tangled in a sensitive court case and therefore, since the case was sub-judice, it was felt better to await the final judgment.”

Pressed on whether any action will be taken now that the court case is over, Mamo said “the Lands Authority will be taking appropriate action in due course.”

After vacating the premises on Monday, Mifsud said he duly handed over the keys to the court marshal but said the cooperative might attempt to obtain the key from court.

“Given that the cooperative has not been kicked out and are still making use of the premises, what guarantee do I have that the cooperative does not gain access to the facilities?”

Mifsud said he had invested over €1.5 million in freezing and packaging facilities for use in the premises, which he now can no longer make use of, almost bringing his business to a complete standstill. 

MaltaToday is informed that following the publication of last week’s report, the Ghaqda Koperattiva tas-Sajd’s secretary Paul Piscopo was convened by the board of Cooperatives Malta, where Piscopo serves as secretary-general. 

However, sources said that Piscopo did not show up for the urgently convened meeting. 

In November 2016, MaltaToday reported that government slapped the Ghaqda Koperattiva tas-Sajd with a judicial letter after it failed to pay a €95,407 loan granted in 2002. 

The latest accounts published by the cooperative show over a seven-year period, it has lost over €200,000 as it went from a surplus of €25,000 in 2007 to a loss in 2014. 

The 2014 audited accounts gave the cooperative an adverse opinion because it failed to recover over €56,000 from its commercial debtors and suffered a €37,105 loss.

“I have paid the cooperative around €289,000 over the past few months, so the obvious question which comes to mind is ‘where has that money gone?’” Mifsud said. 

jurgen
Jurgen Balzan joined MaltaToday in 2011, specialising in politics, foreig...