Gozo: Abbazia bid to claw back Nadur lands

Rector of the Abbazia di Sant Antonio delli Navarra files constitutional application against a legal notice that would cut off its claim to large swathes of land in Gozo

The lawyer running a 17th century foundation to administer a series of Gozitan lands claimed by the heirs of a noblewoman, has filed a constitutional challenge to a Legal Notice that would see its controversial claim over large swathes of land in Gozo being cut off at the knees.

In a constitutional application in the First Hall of the Civil Court last August, lawyer Patrick Valentino, in his capacity as rector of the Abbazia di Sant Antonio delli Navarra, called upon the government, the minister responsible for lands, and the Lands Registrar, to reinstate the foundation’s title over parcels of land in Nadur, and declare a breach of rights.

Valentino is also seeking compensation for damages allegedly suffered.

The case was filed as a reaction to the introduction of Legal Notice 73 of 2022 in February, which resulted in the revocation of all land registrations in a large area of Nadur, which included the Abbazia’s titles.

The introduction of that Legal Notice had been prompted by complaints made by several of the affected area’s residents, whose title over the land is being challenged by the businessmen who have joined forces with the Abbazia heirs, who claim the lands are theirs.

This group includes lawyer Carmelo Galea, a one-time lawyer to the Gozitan Curia; the former magistrate Dennis Montebello and his daughters, who own the company Carravan; and the Stagno Navarra family, who claim to be the heirs of 17th century noblewoman Cosmana Navarra – the founder of the Abbazia di Sant Antonio delli Navarra.

Valentino is alleging that the government introduced the legal notice just before the last general election in a bid to satiate “private individuals occupying the land... who instead of having recourse to judicial fora, launched a campaign on the media and in street protests to put pressure on the Government, resulting in the legislation that is being impugned.”

The constitutional case is scheduled to begin before Madam Justice Joanne Vella Cuschieri next month.


In the year 1675, Cosmana Navarra entrusted the control of her land to the Abbazia (foundation), granting the Archbishop the power to appoint a rector to administer the lands for the benefit of the foundation. The rector was to be a male descendant of Cosmana’s nephew Federico or, in his absence, a priest.

Fast forward to 1992, when a certain Richard Stagno Navarra – claiming to be a descendant of Cosmana Navarra – demanded the right to be the Abbazia’s rector. The Archbishop’s Curia initially resisted the claims, obtaining a court judgement in 2013 which confirmed the Archbishop’s right to appoint the rector.

But in 2017, much to the consternation of the residents and farmers concerned, Archbishop Charles Scicluna accepted – without carrying out any verification of the heirs’ claims – the Stagno Navarras’ ancestry claims, appointing the rector of their choice, lawyer Patrick Valentino.

The appointment of Valentino – as it happens, the partner of Montebello’s daughter and magistrate Rachel – was made for the price of €200,000 that is supposed to be used for pious acts

for the repose of the soul of Cosmana Navarra.

As rector, Valentino immediately set out to transfer the Abbazia’s land to Carravan, the company running the lands.

Today, Carravan is challenging property titles of homeowners in Qala and Nadur, with residents fighting their pretensions in expensive court cases.

The legal notice froze these registrations, bringing a stalemate to proceedings that for the time being, stopping Carravan from putting out the land for development as it did in Qala.

The legal notice was always set to be challenged in the Maltese courts, given that the LRA in Nadur registered in 2019 gave rise to property registrations that brought with them “legitimate expectations” of asset value.

LRAs are designated areas in Malta where an effective title to land must be registered by those who own it. Notaries register property sales falling inside LRAs within two weeks, whether they are a first-time or subsequent registration.

This also means that pretenders to a property’s title can challenge any registration by filing a caution against it.

After 10 years pass the first registration, that title is converted into a guaranteed title – as long as no caution was filed against that title during that period.