Illegal works on Patrick Dalli's Zejtun property sanctioned on appeal, court told

Equality Minister Helena Dalli's husband had continued with works on the property despite an enforcement order

Minister Helena Dalli and her husband Patrick Dalli
Minister Helena Dalli and her husband Patrick Dalli

Equality Minister Helena Dalli's husband had been listed as the owner of a site in Zejtun and had applied for the sanctioning of an illegal development there in his own name, a former journalist has told a court.

This was the substance of the testimony of journalist Caroline Muscat, as she took the witness stand during a libel case filed against her by Patrick Dalli over reports that appeared in The Sunday Times of Malta in November 2014 over works at the Dallis' home that were carrying on in the face of an enforcement notice issued by MEPA. Patrick Dalli had made an application for the sanctioning of the illegal works.

Muscat told Magistrate Francesco Depasquale how a photo had been sent to the Times' newsroom from an anonymous source, together with a note explaining that there were illegal works being performed at a property in Zejtun.

Being one of the newsroom's two journalists specialised in planning issues, Muscat had taken up the story. She had asked a colleague who lived in the area to confirm and take some photos of the site, which he had.

Through the MEPA database, Muscat had then confirmed that there was an enforcement notice and that in 2012, Patrick Dalli had applied for the development to be sanctioned. The case officer had recommended that the application be rejected.

As part of her inquiries, the journalist had contacted Patrick Dalli to hear his side of the story, but Dalli had denied knowledge of what was going on at the site, saying that the property was subject to a promise of sale agreement with a certain Jason Desira. The conversation then took a hostile turn, with Dalli askin her why she was so interested in this particular planning application.

“I assured him that I adopted the same process with him as I would in every other case. I told him that the application was in his name and that was why I called him. He was still the owner of the site and I had to speak to him.” Muscat said the conversation was reproduced in full in the subsequent article.

In December 2014, Patrick Dalli had submitted a revised plan which was refused by MEPA, but was then overturned on appeal. The development was then sanctioned.

The case continues.

Lawyer Edward Gatt is advising Patrick Dalli, whilst lawyer Stefan Frendo is defence counsel to Muscat.

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