Busuttil blasts ‘disgraced’ Ray Zammit after controversial property deal

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi denounce former police commissioner Ray Zammit after the latter purchased three plots of public land for a measly sum and without an architect's evaluation

Former acting police commissioner Ray Zammit (centre) • Photo: Ray Attard
Former acting police commissioner Ray Zammit (centre) • Photo: Ray Attard

Opposition leader Simon Busutti has hit out at “disgraced” former police commissioner Ray Zammit after the latter purchased three plots of land for a measly sum thanks to a “ministerial policy.”

Busuttil’s comments come in the wake of a report by the Sunday Times of Malta which reported that Zammit, the head of the local enforcement agency and acting director at the Corradino Correctional Facility, and his brother purchased 383 square metres of public land in Triq il-Fortizza, Mosta for just €18,600.

The Zammit brothers were the only bidders for each of the three tenders advertised by the Government Property Division (Land Department) last April, and were also given right of first refusal in the tenders issued.

The newspaper reported that contrary to normal practice when the government sells public land, the Government Property Division (Lands Department) did not publish the architect’s minimum evaluation of the property when it advertised the three tenders last April.

It explains that since 2009, under previous administrations, whenever the Land Department sought to sell land by public tender, the evaluation of the property was invariably required. Today, however, the policy has changed, and according to the Planning Parliamentary Secretariat, this procedure is only followed at the Commissioner’s discretion.

“The department’s policy is that in calls for tenders for the disposal of land which is subject to the right of first refusal or primarily interest only one person, the minimum value is not published,” the Planning Parliamentary Secretariat said.

Denouncing the property deal, former PN lands minister Jason Azzopardi questioned why the architect’s valuation of the property for each tender issued was not published, arguing that this highlighted a lack of transparency,

The property deal saw former police chief Ray Zammit purchase 199 square metres of land for €8,200. His brother David acquired 74 square metres for €4,200, while the Zammit brothers jointly acquired 110 square metres for €6,200 – bringing the total sum to €18,600 or €49 per square metre.

In its comments to the Sunday Times of Malta, the Government Property Division (GPD) said that “the department’s estimate [of the value of the lands in question] was exceeded.” Questioned as to how the estimate was calculated, the planning parliamentary secretariat said “the value was mathematically computed in accordance with a ministerial approved policy which states that the ‘value of the land should be based on the value of the land when it was acquired by the current occupier adjusted according to the inflation index plus an annual five per cent till date of sale’.”

The report also said that the calculation used is used when the government is expropriating land for public use, meaning that the value of the land was calculated as if the government was buying rather than selling the plots in Mosta.