[WATCH] Robert Abela says tax was paid on rental income from Russian passport applicants

Robert Abela says rental income he received from Russian passport applicants residing at his Żejtun villa was declared to the taxman

The 2,200 square metre villa was purchased at a bargain price of €600,000 in 2017
The 2,200 square metre villa was purchased at a bargain price of €600,000 in 2017

Robert Abela said he declared his rental income from two Russian passport applicants to which he lent his Żejtun ODZ villa address despite not featuring in his parliamentary tax statement. 

"This story claiming that I didn't declare the rent is a lie spread by the Nationalist Party the last week of the election campaign. I declared the rent and I paid tax on it," he said.

Tax statements spanning Abela's time as a government MP make no reference to any rental income earned from his Żejtun property. However, Abela is not legally required to declare such rental income in the statement if the contract was originally declared with the tax authorities and if he paid a 15% tax on all the income made.  

Abela confirmed last week that he rented out his Żejtun villa to a prospective passport buyer from Russia. He stated that the rental agreement was signed before he became Prime Minister, but could not specify when the contract was terminated.  

Abela’s firm was previously an accredited agent for the Individual Investor Programme, Malta’s scheme for the sale of passports to the global elite. 

Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech challenged Abela to publish the architect's valuation of the property, suggesting that the contract price reflected the legal shortcomings of the villa, and not the regularised alterations.

Indeed, the villa was riddled with legal irregularities before the Abela family bought the estate in 2017. The illegal extensions had doubled the size of the farmhouse to 352sq.m, when such ODZ (outside development zone) buildings could only be extended up to a maximum 200sq.m floor area. 

Abela was at the time the chief lawyer to the Planning Authority when in April 2017, the PA’s planning commission approved owner Joseph Camilleri’s request to ‘regularise’ illegal alterations and additions to the dwelling.

However, Abela acquired the villa just three months after it was regularised by the Planning Authority and freed from restrictions for its sale.

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