Court upholds prohibitory injunction against Gaffarena

Marco Gaffarena's lawyer argued that the call for the warrant was null and void as it was unclear whether Joseph Muscat was acting in his capacity as prime minister or a member of parliament

Attorney General Peter Grech, together with lawyer Victoria Buttigieg, filed a warrant of prohibitory injunction this morning, calling on the courts to ensure that the lands involved in a contentious expropriation case are not sold on to third parties during the course of the legal proceedings against developer Marco Gaffarena.

Judge J R Micallef provisionally upheld the request but a final decision has to be taken by the 21 February.

Appearing on behalf of Marco Gaffarena, lawyer Keith Bonnici argued that Joseph Muscat could not file his case in his role of Prime Minister but as a Member of Parliament. 

"The fact that he filed as a Prime Minister means he is acting on behalf of the government, however the quoted law - Disposal of Government Property Act - clearly makes reference to MPs. The court has to be aware if Muscat is acting as a member of parliament, or as a prime minister. In view of this both the actual case calling for the reversal of contracts and the call for the warrant are null and void", Bonnici said.

Attorney General Peter Grech replied that if a transfer of government-owned land happens through illegal contract, it can be contested. Furthermore when the government expropriated part of the building in Old Mint Street, all owners were eligible for compensation right, yet only Marco Gaffarena was awarded such rights.

"The government can choose to either compensate with money or exchange property. It can also over-value by 30%, but in this case the excess was far more than that allowed at law", Grech argued.

Taking the witness stand Notary Marisa Grech, Assistant Director Contracts at the Government Property Division, exhibited copies of the two contracts in question. Signed on the 28 January 2015, the first contract relates to the transfer of land in Manuel Dimech Street Sliema, Tas-Salvatur at Siggiewi, land at Tal-Handaq and land in Bahar ic-Caghaq. The second contract, dated 10 April 2015 regards land in Bahar ic-Caghaq and Zebbug. Both contracts were signed by Notary Anthony Lia.

The case against Gaffarena, calling for the nullification of both contracts and the reversal of the tranfers of property, will be heard on 10 March before Judge Anna Felice.

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