Spinola Road development: Developer tells PAC he had no contact with Jason Azzopardi

Vincent Farrugia insisted he was not aware of any meetings with then minister Azzopardi and that he was the victim of the debacle, and not the people

Businessman Vincent Farrugia said he had not had any contact with Jason Azzopardi because he was not particularly fond of him
Businessman Vincent Farrugia said he had not had any contact with Jason Azzopardi because he was not particularly fond of him

Businessman Vincent Farrugia, one of the businessmen behind an illegal development of an apartment block at 83 Spinola Road, told the Public Accounts Committee this afternoon that he had never met with then minister Jason Azzopardi, who was then responsible for the Lands Department.

Present for the session were the committee’s chairman Beppe Fenech Adami, as well as Kristy Debono and Claudio Grech for the Opposition and Robert Abela, Julia Farrugia Portelli and Clayton Farrugia for the Government.

Accompanied by his lawyer Peter Fenech, Farrugia explained that, contrary to what had previously been implied, he had never met with Azzopardi, nor was he aware of either of his two lawyers meeting with the minister.

“I never met with the minister because if I’m being honest I'm not particularly fond of him or the Nationalist Party,” said Farrugia, who upon being asked by Grech, whether he had ever recieved any help from Azzopardi replied: "Jason Azzopardi ruined me".

Vincent Farrugia (left) with his lawyer Peter Grech (right)
Vincent Farrugia (left) with his lawyer Peter Grech (right)

The case revolves around a development on the Spinola seafront, over which the Lands Commission had, in 2003, initiated legal proceedings against Vincent Farrugia, Ernest Grech and the companies E.G. Property Holdings and El Dara Ltd for the illegal development of an the block. The block had included a part of the foreshore, which Farrugia maintains was not in fact part of the foreshore. In 2009, the court of appeals confirmed a 2006 decision ordering the block to be demolished.

Farrugia, a businessman involved in retail, textiles, insurance and some minor construction, said he had bought the property for €65,000 in good faith, without knowing of any issues with the property.

The committee heard how, after the court’s decision, Farrugia had asked his lawyers to engage with the authorities in the hope of finding a solution and it was decided that the property would be sold by tender, and that Farrugia would be offered a right of first refusal.

“I was informed that three architects would be meeting, two on behalf of he government and one which I engaged myself,” he said, adding that he had subsequently been told that the architects had agreed on a figure of €300,000.

Farrugia said that when the tender was issued, there was no specified minimum offer, and that he had offered €192,225 for the property. He said however that the government had gotten back to him and requested €950,000, an unacceptable amount given that he had purchased the property for €65,000, he said.

Despite the architects agreeing to a valuation of €300,000 Farrugia said someone on the other side of the deal, possibly the Director General of the Lands Department or the minister himself, had however insisted that the property not be sold for less than €525,000.

In a previous session, the committee heard how Farrugia had not yet paid the full amount the property was sold for. Asked about why he had not done so, Farrugia said that he had requested an extension, given that he had not been allowed to continue work on the site, which had remain in shell form. He assured the committee however that he had recently communicated with the Lands Authority, and assured it that the would settle any outstanding bill by the end of the year.

During his testimony, Farrugia also declared that he property in question was for sale, and when presser by Abela to disclose how much he was hoping to collect, Farrugia said that he aimed to make between €9 and €10 million from its sale.

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