The Malta Independent 30 June 2016, Thursday

Falzon's liaison officer Clint Scerri not on government witness list in Gaffarena case

Kevin Schembri Orland Tuesday, 26 January 2016, 07:38 Last update: about 5 months ago

Former Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon’s customer care liason officer Clint Scerri is not on the list of witnesses which the government intends to bring forward in the case to revert the Old Mint Street deal, proceedings filed in the First Hall of the Civil Court show.

Mr Scerri allegedly had contact with Mr Gaffarena during the dealings. The Internal Audit and Investigations Department (IAID) report revealed that Mr Scerri was present in meetings between the Director for Estate Management and Mr Gaffarena. It has also been previously alleged that Clint Scerri had accompanied Gaffarena to the Government Property Division to finalise the expropriation deal.

Under Chapter 12 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure - “The plaintiff shall together with the declaration also give the names of the witnesses he intends to produce in evidence stating in respect of each of them the facts and proof he intends to establish by their evidence”.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, in his capacity as a member of the House of Representatives, filed a court case against Marco Gaffarena after the National Audit Office, in a damning report that resulted in the resignation of Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon, showed concern about the ethical conduct of officials involved in the expropriation of land in Old Mint Street and collusion noted between the Government Property Department and Marco Gaffarena.

“This conclusion, arrived at by the National Audit Office, was based on the fact that although it was within the GPD’s legal right to acquire the entire property, the Department opted to expropriate only two undivided shares from Gaffarena in a piecemeal manner. In fact, the GPD only negotiated with Gaffarena and never informed any of the other co-owners of such negotiations. The GPD was aware of or could easily have traced the identity of the other co-owners and could have readily negotiated with them too following the issuance of the President’s declaration. Furthermore, the GPD justified the piecemeal acquisition by citing insufficient funds when funds to acquire the entire property were in fact available.”

The list of witnesses the Attorney General intends to bring forward in the case include notaries Angela Bezzina, Anthony Hili and the principle government notary (or a representative of his office) to testify on the title of Old Mint Street.

The co-owners of the site are also going to be called, in order to ascertain whether they were called regarding a possible contract.

In addition, Joseph Muscat (partner in the Auditing Firm Price WatehouseCoopers), Ryan Sciberras, Sharon Bonello, Architect Christopher Micallef and Vera Jankovic will be called to testify on the valuation of funds exchanged through the two public contracts referred to them.

Representative of the Commissioner for Lands Margaret Falzon will also testify on the contracts, and considerations of the said contracts.

A representative of the Land Registry will testify on the land registration subject to the contracts and lastly, a Ministry of Finance representative will testify on the facts.

A list of witnesses by the defendants has yet to be submitted, so it could vety well be that Clint Scerri would be included in this list.

The Prime Minister launched the court case in order to declare the two contracts signed with Gaffarena null, and for the property to be returned. Mr Gaffarena was given €1.65 million in cash and land for the expropriation of half a building in Old Mint Street, Valletta.

By means of the court action, the Prime Minister as a member of Parliament, and the Attorney General are seeking to annul the two contracts of exchange with the Gaffarenas due to alleged legal flaws in the expropriation declared by the President of Malta in two separate notices in the Government Gazette.

The application premises that the expropriation, as declared by the President, referred to the undivided share in absolute title in the entire property and not simply the undivided share of the Gaffarenas. Furthermore, it is stated that the Gaffarena’s did not own their share by absolute title, but paid ground rent to third parties. This meant that the other co-owners of the property, and the direct owners entitled to the ground rent were not included in the contracts, thereby allegedly rendering them null and ineffective. Furthermore, the value of the property given in exchange was allegedly excessive due to this fact.

Both Gaffarena and the Commissioner of Lands are defendants in this lawsuit.

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