Court rejects request to suspend Gaffarena expropriation case

Court holds off further sale of controversial property to Marco Gaffarena

The property in Old Mint Street that houses the BICC offices
The property in Old Mint Street that houses the BICC offices

The Civil Court has turned down a request to suspend proceedings enforcing a promise of sale agreement over a portion of a property in Old Mint Street to Marco Gaffarena and his wife, until a related case, filed by the Prime Minister, about the same property, is resolved.

The expropriation of half the ownership of the building had ignited a storm of controversy, after the National Audit Office reported there it had found evidence of collusion between the Land Department, Gaffarena and then Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon. Falzon had tendered his resignation in the wake of the revelations.

The co-owners of the share in the property are resisting the sale, arguing that it cannot be transacted until a decision is reached in the case filed by the Prime Minister in which the annulment of the expropriation of the half ownership already held by Gaffarena and the refund of compensation given to him is being requested.

In filing the case, the Prime Minister had argued that the government expropriated a half undivided share of the Old Mint Street property from all the co-owners and not only from Gaffarena.

The resulting right to compensation was shared by all the co-owners and not just Gaffarena, the Prime Minister had submitted, requesting the cancellation of the sale.

The co-owners had argued that the court should suspend proceedings outcome of the case instituted by the prime minister has a direct bearing on them and their ownership.

Madame Justice Lorraine Schembri Orland disagreed with this argument however. “It could be the case that this court would also want to carry out an evaluation of the effects of the order to decide the requests made before it, but there is nothing to stop it from proceeding with hearing this case, whilst making its own checks over the requests and pleas in the context of the controversy it has before it,” the judge remarked. The court ordered the case to proceed.