[WATCH] Labour push line that Fenech Adami’s villa extension was abusive

Minister Chris Cardona in press conference claims reports on Nationalist MP Beppe Fenech Adami’s villa are not reaction to Panamagate scandal

Ian Castaldi Paris and Chris Cardona
Ian Castaldi Paris and Chris Cardona
Labour: Fenech Adami's villa extension an 'abuse of power'

The “scandal” concerning Beppe Fenech Adami’s property in Gharghur is more about “abuse of power than planning abuse”, economy minister Chris Cardona said in a press conference after the Nationalist MP sued Labour media One News for defamation over a TV report on his property.

The PN deputy leader has disputed suggestions that Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi accorded him any special treatment by allowing his Gharghur home to extend beyond a two-storey zoning limit, just days after telling the Malta Environment and Planning Authority to limit heights on properties on the perimeter of the development zone.

Addressing a press conference with Ian Castaldi Paris, a former PN candidate, the minister insisted that the reports on Fenech Adami’s villa on the party’s media was not a reaction to the Panamagate revelations embarrassing Labour.

“Labour is exposing the PN’s hypocrisy, particularly in view of the party’s emphasis on good governance and insistence against corruption,” Cardona said.

He challenged Opposition leader Simon Busuttil to say whether he knew of the case in question beforehand, and whether he was willing to sack Fenech Adami. “Are these the standards Busuttil has been preaching about and will he uphold his promise?” Cardona asked.

Cardona said Fenech Adami should answer for the allegations and explain Gonzi’s involvement in the case.

But as minister responsible for environment and planning, Gonzi was responsible to sanction any planning control applications from MEPA.

Labour media One News broadcast the contents of a letter from Gonzi in October 2008, in which he instructed MEPA chairman Austin Walker not to allow the addition of storeys on homes located on the periphery of the development zone that had been recently extended.

The Nationalist government had back in 2006 controversially increased the development zones with Beppe Fenech Adami as one of its beneficiaries, whose villa was built by its first owners in 1988 in a green area, and was then included in the new development zones. Fenech Adami purchased the property in 1994.

In his letter, Gonzi had told Walker that MEPA’s planning control applications to allow three-storey extensions would affect developments that had recently been added to the development zone. However, reports alleged that on 13 October 2008 – merely three days after his instruction to MEPA – Gonzi informed the MEPA board secretary that he would approve individual PC applications, one of which affected the development of Nationalist MP Beppe Fenech Adami’s own villa in Gharghur.