Gaffarena in company of others who demanded Verdelin eviction in 2014

Property owner Marco Gaffarena one of several owners of Valletta property being rented by government for police station

The government has denied once again its intention to acquire Valletta’s Palazzo Verdelin, which it leases to house the capital city’s police station.

In a statement, the government denied suggestions that it was accommodating property entrepreneur Marco Gaffarena’s intention to acquire the building, to benefit from a hefty compensation for its expropriation by the State.

Instead the government responded to claims of corruption by shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi, that the Hostel de Verdelin – a 17th century palazzo built by Grandmaster de Verdalle’s nephew Fra Jean Jacques de Verdelin – was not about to be expropriated by the government.

It revealed that in October 2014, Ganado Advocates informed the Commissioner of Lands that the property’s owners – the heirs of Antonio Zammit, Marco Gaffarena, and the firm B. Tagliaferro and Sons Ltd – were demanding the property to be vacated and returned to its owners.

The 12 owners who receive rent were identified as Deborah Bonello Du Puis, Tanya Borg Cardona, Peter Caruana Galizia - who represents a client owning a part of the property - Therese Demajo, Mark Gaffarena, Yvonne Galea, Charles Grech, Malcolm Soler, B Tagliaferro and Sons Ltd., Dorothy & Mark Zammit, Joe Zammit, and Victor Zammit.

Lawyer Peter Caruana Galizia clarified with MaltaToday that he has no share in the property but that he represents a non-resident owner of one room on Archbishop Street, which forms part of the fabric of the Palazzo. "She has no connection with Marco Gaffarena or anyone else of the persons indicated as co-owners. My client has never asked the government to return the property and has always accepted the rent which is paid to me on her behalf."

The government said that as per procedure, the Lands Department informed the permanent secretary of the eviction request. “The ministry’s decision was a conscious one to enter legal procedures in a bid to retain its rental of the property, not buy it or expropriate it,” the government said.

“This statement of facts exposes the Opposition to its own lies, and its bid to cover up its close relationship with the Gaffarenas, and the lies of its own deputy leader [Beppe Fenech Adami] in hiding his connection with these people. The test for the Opposition leader is whether he will take steps against his deputy leader.”

An investigation by the Prime Minister’s Internal Audit and Investigations Department (IAID) is already underway on both the alleged Verdelin expropriation, as well as that on the Old Mint Street palazzo expropriated at €1.65 million for Marco Gaffarena’s 50% ownership.

Earlier today the PN demanded that the Prime Minister take immediate action over what they claimed were “lies” by home affairs minister Carmelo Abela, who in parliament denied that the government intended acquiring Palazzo Verdelin.

The historic Valletta building, currently housing the Valletta police station, was apparently in the crosshairs of property entrepreneur Marco Gaffarena, who has already benefited from a controversial €1.65 million compensation from the State to have his half-ownership of another Valletta property expropriated.

Shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi dubbed Joseph Muscat an “ally” of Gaffarena, claiming he had forced his own ministers to lie about Gaffarena’s intentions to purchase the property, ostensibly in a bid for a handsome expropriation deal.