The Malta Independent 20 January 2022, Thursday

Government finally answers on Casino di Venezia, says repossession efforts ongoing

Neil Camilleri Wednesday, 15 February 2017, 09:53 Last update: about 6 years ago

The government will only answer certain questions, it seems, if a formal parliamentary question is filed.

Questions about the repossession, by the government, of the Casino di Venezia site in Vittoriosa were answered just over a week after PN MP Ryan Callus filed a PQ addressed to the Prime Minister. The Parliamentary Secretariat for Lands, on the other hand, has refused to answer this newspaper’s questions about the subject for over four months.

The Malta Independent on Sunday reported last week how it had been waiting for replies from PS Deborah Schembri since September.

Seeing how the government was keeping the media in the dark over the process to take back the Vittoriosa sites, in a dispute over unpaid ground rent, Mr Callus filed two PQs on Monday 6 February.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat yesterday confirmed that the case was still sub judice – meaning it is ongoing – and the government is being represented in the case by the Attorney General.

Mr Callus also asked whether works on a hotel at the site were halted as a result of the court case.

The PM said the government is suing three companies - Port Cottonera Hotel Development Co Limited, Galleys Development Co Limited and Vittoriosa Gaming Limited. It is requesting the court to unbind the Lands Commissioner from the emphyteutical concession agreement relating to the sites of the Casino di Venezia (480sqm) and relative airspace, a plot of land measuring 2,500 square metres and the Residence of the Palace of the Captain of the Galleys’ Squadron, and to order the three companies to hand over possession of the sites, together with any investment made on them.

“It seems that the works on the hotel have stopped because of the pending court case and other legal matters as well as for financial reasons,” the PM said.

According to the 1999 emphyteutical deed, the occupant was to pay an annual ground rent of €582,000 after a four-year rebate. The amount was to increase by 15 per cent every 10 years and the government retained the right to terminate the contract if the company failed to pay rent for two years.

Casino di Venezia closed down in 2013 after incurring substantial losses over a number of years and a 2012 heist which saw robbers escape with €500,000 in cash. Works on the adjacent hotel were never finished. The government launched legal proceedings in 2015 to take back possession of the sites, claiming that the three companies linked to the site had fallen behind on ground rent.

The government has refused to tell The Malta Independent how much is owed in backdated rent.

One of the listed applicants for the hotel development spoke to this paper last week about potential interest by foreign investors but could not say anything about the court proceedings.

Vittoriosa Mayor John Boxall also complained that that local council was being left in the dark about the repossession efforts. 

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