Testaferrata Moroni Viani heirs in squabble over multi-million estate

Maltese nobles in 11-year feud to have Testaferrata Moroni Viani estate valued in a bid to avoid fragmentation of estate

The land on which the former Empire Stadium in Gzira stands is valued at €30 million alone
The land on which the former Empire Stadium in Gzira stands is valued at €30 million alone

Several of Malta’s wealthiest landowning families, locked in a court dispute over the multi-million estate of Baron Pietro Paolo Testaferrata Moroni Viani, have been denied a request to remove two of the plaintiffs from the case.

The case dates back to 2010, in which members of the Testaferrata Moroni Viani family filed a court case against sisters Agnes Gera de Petri Testaferrata Bonici Ghaxaq, Caren Preziosi and Anna Maria Spiteri Debono, on a dispute concerning properties that form part of a multi-million inheritance.

Gera de Petri and the other defendants were denied a request to have two plaintiffs, wives of the Testaferrata Moroni Viani heirs. The case now continues.

The surviving plaintiffs – brothers Christopher, Martin, and their cousins Peter Paul, Paul Stephen and Caroline Testaferrata Moroni Viani – are co-owners of several properties which form part of the so-called Primogenituri Testaferrata estate, together with the defendants, their cousins.

The Primogenituri Testaferrata, administered under the name Testaferrata Moroni Viani Estates, includes lands and buildings in Ta’ Xbiex, Msida, Gzira, Mosta, Paola and Żebbiegħ belonging to Baron Pietro Paolo Testaferrata Moroni Viani. He was survived in 1954 by his four children, but died intestate.

Now there is a dispute over what parts of the original estate was bequeathed to his successors, with his grandchildren disputing the ownership of several properties.

Specifically, there is a dispute over the part-ownership of Palazzo Testaferrata in Paola, a 20,000sq.m plot of land in Mosta and a villa on the Ta’ Xbiex seafront, all forming part of the original estate, and how these should be divided between the parties.

In 1950, when the law of first-born succession was abrogated, half of the Testaferrata Moroni Viani estate was bequeathed to Salvino, the eldest son of Baron Pietro Paolo.

On the latter’s death in 1954 without a will, the other half of the estate was inherited by all his four children – Salvino, Mario, Beatrice and Maria – each taking a one-eighth share.

On their deaths, they were survived by their own children: in 1999, Baroness Maria was succeeded by her daughters, the defendants Agnes, Caren and Annamaria, who each had one-third of the one-eight share, working to 1/24th of the original estate – valued at some €26 million in immovable properties.

Salvino was survived in 2017 by his sons Christopher and Martin, who own the lion’s share of the original estate (€90 million). Mario was survived in 2007 by his children Peter, Paul and Caroline, each inheriting 1/24th of the Primogenituri estate (€20 million).

Christopher and Martin inherited a further 1/24th of the original estate from their aunt, the late Beatrice in 2007, as well as her one-eighth share in the Paola palazzo. Beatrice also bequeathed Peter, Paul and Caroline a 1/48th share of the original estate, and designated nieces Agnes, Caren and Annamaria as her universal heirs thereafter.

But there is a disagreement over the apportionment of Beatrice’s share in the estate.

In a bid to propose a plan for their division and avoid further fragmentation, the children of the late Salvino and Mario Testaferrata Moroni Viani, engaged an architect to value the estate. They claim that defendant Agnes Gera de Petri has refused to consider the division of the estate, and have called upon the court to determine and identify all the properties in which the parties are co-owners and determine their respective shares.

Gera de Petri denied being against the legal partition of her aunt’s share, but complained at the “abusive” manner in which the architect’s report proposed the division of the estate, because it put her and her siblings at a disadvantage.

Land historically owned by the Testaferrata Moroni Viani primogenitura

An architect’s report valued the lands owned by the three groups of cousins, at a total of €140 million, the lion’s share owned by the heirs of Baron Salvino Testaferrata Moron Viani.

They include territory in Ta’ Xbiex and Msida, and land known as l-Andrijiet and Fawwara in Gzira: they include the Gzira stadium land itself, various properties in and around Rue d’Argens, Testaferrata Street, Luqa Briffa Street, and pockets of undeveloped land at Ta’ Xbiex (worth €30 million alone);

Palazzo Testaferrata in Paola, Valletta Road, and undeveloped territory at Blata l-Gholja in Mosta; territory at Gnien id-Dwieli at Zebbiegh, Mgarr; a land portion known as ‘Ta’ Pastizz’ or ‘ix-Xatba’ in Gzira; lands ‘Ta’ Forn il-Gir’, ‘Lenza tal-Hamra’ in Gzira, and ‘Balluta’ in Sliema; as well as other properties and territory in Gozo.