[WATCH] Developers think Corinthia land transfer could be illegal state aid

Sandro Chetcuti also said that if the government opts to move-on with the project, it would be conducting ‘economic suicide’ 

The MDA is seeking legal advice on whether the transfer of land to the Corinthia Group amounts to state aid
The MDA is seeking legal advice on whether the transfer of land to the Corinthia Group amounts to state aid

The Malta Developers Association is seeking legal advice on whether the transfer of land at St George’s Bay to the Corinthia Group amounts to state aid, its president Sandro Chetcuti said on Thursday.

The association, he said, wanted to ensure that the land was transferred in an above board manner, according to the relevant tendering procedures.  

Chetcuti was a guest on current affairs programme Xtra together with Moviment Graffitti activist Andre Callus, where the two discussed the six-star luxury development being proposed by the Corinthia Group.  

The Corinthia Group - which is owned by International Hotel Investments (IHI) - is set to be given similar concessions on the price of the land as those given to the DB Group for the development of its City Centre project.

IHI is planning a €400 million six-star hotel complex with offices and residences in the St George’s Bay area.

Chetcuti said that the project’s approval would result in a case of economic suicide, adding that the low valuation of the land would have a ripple effect on the country’s property market.

READ ALSO: Corinthia to get DB’s conditions for six-star luxury hotel resort

“We want high net tourism, and we believe in attracting better quality tourists, but we want things to be done professionally and by the book,” Chetcuti said. 

Callus said he was also against the project and said the NGO would be issuing a statement to this effect in the coming days.

Both guests agreed that the valuation was too low when considering the size and location of the land in question.

“To sell a whole peninsula for such a ridiculous amount is atrocious,” Callus said. 

The Moviment Graffiti activist also pointed out that the area surrounding the project, doesn’t have the appropriate infrastructure to cater for an even higher influx of people in the area. 

“The Saint George’s Bay and Paceville area is already over-run, now we have this massive project coupled with the already approved DB Group project. The residents will be literally buried alive,” Callus said. 

In a video comment, Chief Executive Officer of Development for Corinthia Simon Naudi said that from his perspective the deal is beyond a cheap one for the company. 

“I don’t think we have taken the land at a low value. We are also looking at the project through a holistic perspective which we hope benefits not only us but also the country,” he said. 

According to Naudi, the attraction of high profile tourists, the economic spill over would benefit the whole country. 

The creation of new jobs will also benefit the nation, Naudi said, a statement which did not go down well with Andre Callus. 

“The only jobs that will be created will be under-paid jobs to foreign workers,” he said.

Like Callus, Chetcuti also criticised the way in which the government had gone about the land transfer.  

“Public land has to be audited through the Land’s Authority Act. Why has the act been by-passed? Why was the architect not consulted?” he said. 

Both men also expressed their disappointment at the fact that there was still no master plan for Paceville.

 “A local project assessment will not prove anything, what we need is an assessment that covers the whole area, especially considering that right next to the Corinthia project, the DB group development has already been approved,” Callus said. 

Chetcuti stressed that a master plan was needed before it was too late. “The original master plan was not done in the way it should have been,” Chetcuti said. “I repeat, if the project goes through, we will be opening a Pandora’s Box.”

Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina, also speaking via a video comment, stressed that if the land was granted under the instruction that it should be used for touristic purposes, the development should not include commercial interests. 

Finally, Chetucti turned to the negotiations between the Corinthia Group and the government and stressed the importance of “strong negotiators” when dealing with big companies.  

“You can’t have amateurs by your side when dealing with such strong negotiators,” he said. 

Labour Pembroke Mayor Dean Hili said that the project will only benefit people in the high-income bracket. 

“The project will only benefit people who have income from the project, while the surrounding areas remain over-populated and over-run,” he said. 

READ ALSO: Corinthia land values given 57% discount