European Commission will not investigate DB ITS land deal

The European Commission has informed Nationalist Party MEP candidate Michael Briguglio it will not probe the ITS land transfer to DB Group for breach of state aid rules unless it has a complaint from a disadvantaged competitor

A photomontage of the db Group 38-storey tower overlooking St George's Bay in St Julians
A photomontage of the db Group 38-storey tower overlooking St George's Bay in St Julians

The controversial transfer of the former tourism school and grounds in St George’s Bay to the DB Group will not be investigated by the Brussels executive.

The European Commission’s competition directorate has informed Nationalist Party MEP candidate Michael Briguglio that it could not treat his request for an investigation as a formal complaint.

In its letter dated 14 December, which Briguglio published on his blog today, the Commission informed the PN candidate that unless he was a competitor of the DB Group aggrieved by the land transfer decision, his request could not be treated as a formal complaint.

The complaint has been registered as market information but the Commission went one step further, insisting it will not investigate the deal of its own accord.

“Please note that in absence of a formal complaint, DG Competition does not intend to investigate this issue on an ex-officio basis,” the Commission wrote.

Meanwhile, Briguglio said that he was still waiting for replies to letters dated 30 October to the Maltese State Aid Monitoring Board and Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority.

Briguglio had asked European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to investigate the compatibility of the ITS land transfer to the DB Group with state aid rules on the basis that the price at which this was done was “significantly lower than the market price”.

The land was transferred to the DB Group on a 99-year concession for the construction of a high-rise residential tower, a Hard Rock Hotel and commercial development.

The project was approved by the Planning Authority in September amid opposition from Pembroke residents and environmental groups. The vote was mired in controversy when it emerged that the PA had brought over one of the board members by private jet from Sicily to vote on the project.

The project was approved by 10 votes to four.

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