Zammit-Gaffarena: Dubious intimacy after murder charge

Bahrija land deal in 2009 made neighbours of Gaffarenas and Zammits after police inspector Daniel Zammit was prosecuting Gaffarena son-in-law Stephen Caruana on murder charge

Former police inspector Daniel Zammit
Former police inspector Daniel Zammit

A piece of agricultural land in Bahrija first owned by the Gaffarena family, and then sold to a third party before being sold again to the sons of former police chief Ray Zammit, Daniel and Roderick, confirms once again the degree of intimacy that overshadows a dubiously handled murder case.

The land deal is yet another piece in the puzzle of connections between the Zammit family of police officers and the Gaffarena property owners – both making headlines for different reasons – and in suspicious conflict over the stalemate prosecution of Joe Gaffarena’s former son-in-law, Stephen Caruana.

In April 2004, the Gaffarena’s family company Alfaclass Developers sold two portions of its agricultural holdings in the Wied Rini area of Bahrija to Alfred Chircop of Zebbug – in total 13,800 square metres for Lm6,100 (€14,200).

In June 2009 Chircop then sold half of one of the two fields, a 2,248 sq.m field bordering on the Gaffarena holdings, to Daniel Zammit and Roderick Zammit, for €11,650.

The two brothers, a police inspector and sergeant respectively, were now neighbours of the Gaffarena family.

How fortuitous the deal was is another matter altogether: because Daniel Zammit was the co-prosecutor in the 2008 murder charges against Joe Gaffarena’s son-in-law Stephen Caruana, then married to Romina Gaffarena – an Alfaclass Developers shareholder.

Caruana, then 28, shot dead Neville Baldacchino, after finding him in his Qormi home, in December 2008. He was granted bail on 13 January, 2009.

Caruana found Baldacchino at his house, allegedly in the company of his wife at 1am on 19 December, and shot him several times with a shotgun.

He pleaded not guilty to the murder, but since then has not yet been placed under a bill of indictment. The compilation of evidence is still ongoing. 

Subsequently, Joe Gaffarena demolished the house where the murder occurred in the aptly named Drama Street and a block of flats was erected in its place, meaning that no further on-site inquiry can be carried out.

Press reports from the arraignment show that it was the prosecution, ostensibly Daniel Zammit, who asked Magistrate Miriam Hayman in her chamber, to have the sensitive evidence of witnesses like that of the wives of Caruana and Baldacchino, given behind closed doors – even though no reason for this decision was given. The request was naturally supported by the defence.

The business connections between the Zammits and the Gaffarenas went further: in June 2010, Daniel Zammit went into business with his (now former) father-in-law Gregory Buttigieg and Gaffarena’s son Michael, a dentist, incorporating the company St Gabriel Residential Homes Ltd. The company was formed just a week before he married Buttigieg’s daughter, from whom he separated three years later.

In June 2014, shares held by the Zammits and father Ray Zammit with the Gaffarenas in Geras Care Ltd, were transferred to their mother Jane.

Zammits and Gaffarenas in the news

Daniel Zammit’s name rose to prominence last month when the police inspector was medically ‘boarded out’ of the police corps within four days of making his request, and then drafted into a €60,000 position within Enemalta’s internal audit division.

Up until this year he had been prosecuting people – 25 in total – charged with bribing Enemalta technicians to hack their smart meters, a bust originally carried out by Enemalta’s internal audit. 

But his new post was instantly terminated this week by energy minister Konrad Mizzi, as the majority shareholder of Enemalta plc, when the matter was brought up in the House of Representatives by the Opposition.

The news came hot on the heels of a controversial €1.65 million compensation paid out to Marco Gaffarena, in cash and in a series of government lands bordering on his own property interests, for his half-ownership of a Valletta palazzo.

The Old Mint Street building houses the government offices of the Building Industry Consultative Council, currently chaired by Labour MP Charles Buttigieg. The MP, an architect, has in the past served the Gaffarena family as his clients.

It was revealed that the expropriation of the Old Mint Street house was premature, since the government still had the property on a lease; and subsequently it was revealed that Gaffarena had discussed the matter with parliamentary secretary for lands Michael Falzon, who signed off the expropriation orders. Falzon’s political aide, Clint Scerri, was also revealed to have accompanied Gaffarena personally to the Lands Department.

MEPA refused Zammit permit for Bahrija stables

In 2010, Daniel Zammit submitted an application for the construction of stables for the keeping of horses and a water reservoir on his Bahrija land. The site was located in a level 3 area of ecological importance and area of high landscape value.

But the MEPA case officer report did not view the proposal as being in line with ‘construction of new stables’ policy, and recommended refusal.

The case officer’s report also stated that the applicant, Daniel Zammit, was the registered owner of four horses, according to a document submitted by the Malta Racing Club.

Zammit appealed the decision in 2011. In March 2013, the MEPA appeals tribunal upheld MEPA’s decision, saying that it had doubts that Zammit’s stables proposal would be a small-scale physical development and that no environmental impact assessment had been prepared to substantiate such a claim.