How Planning Authority ‘helped’ middleman Melvin Theuma become an animal keeper

Middleman in the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination Melvin Theuma was given a permit from the Planning Authority’s planning commission to build an agricultural store instead of the smaller rural structures on the site

Middleman Melvin Theuma
Middleman Melvin Theuma

The middleman in the Caruana Galizia assassination had a fancy for animals.

In November, Melvin Theuma – now turned State’s evidence against accused mastermind Yorgen Fenech and the Prime Minister’s former chief-of-staff Keith Schembri – was granted a planning permit for a menagerie that included dwarf goats, pheasants, peacocks, chickens, rabbits, and even weasels, on his land in Triq il-Kuccard, Safi.

Originally, he got a permit from the Planning Authority’s planning commission to build an agricultural store instead of the smaller rural structures on the site. He also planned to have a reservoir, gate and boundary walls, but these additions were objected to by both the Environment and Resources Authority and the Agricultural Advisory Committee.

As it happens, the PA commission was chaired by architect Elizabeth Ellul, who is also listed as one of the non-executive directors on the government’s Housing Maintenance and Embellishment Company (HPMU) where Theuma was granted a no-show job by order of Keith Schembri himself.

Theuma was not registered as a farmer when in 2016 the ERA and AAC said his plans for a reservoir were not motivated by a “genuine agricultural need”. And when he registered as a farmer in July 2016, the AAC still refused clearance in view “of the absence of proof of arable farming as defined in the Rural Policy and Design Guidance.”

Despite the refusal of the case officer, the Planning Authority’s planning commission still green-lit newly registered ‘farmer’ Melvin Theuma’s request for a reservoir
Despite the refusal of the case officer, the Planning Authority’s planning commission still green-lit newly registered ‘farmer’ Melvin Theuma’s request for a reservoir

For this reason even the case officer had recommended a refusal.

But the permit was still issued by Ellul’s planning commission, after Thuema submitted “evidence of agricultural activity” – evidence consisting of photos “showing the tools owned by the applicant used for the current agricultural activity”.

The case officer had however pointed out that this did not amount to “proof of arable farming as defined in the Rural Policy and Design Guidance”.

In June 2018 he applied for the construction of horse stables and paddock area. The initial proposal also included a visitors’ attraction centre, which Theuma later withdrew.

In 2019 he applied to develop of six animal enclosures with an area of approximately 56sq.m, which was approved in September. The enclosures would host four dwarf goats, six pheasants, one male peacock and three female peacocks, eight fancy chickens, 12 show rabbits and four Maltese weasels.

The application was deemed to be in line with the rural policy which identifies the keeping of animals intended for research, educational, sport, leisure and exhibition purposes, as one of the acceptable rural activities outside development zones, provided that the animal enclosures are lightweight, visually permeable and of a high-quality rural design.

The purchase of the 1,790sq.m landholding was financed through a €70,000 bank loan issued by the Bank of Valletta.

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