The Malta Independent 24 September 2021, Friday

Vista Point: Phantom Gozo apartment block rented to IIP applicants

Albert Galea & Nicole Meilak Thursday, 22 April 2021, 06:00 Last update: about 5 months ago

The Passport Papers | A Gozo apartment block was being rented out to wealthy IIP applicants while it was still under construction. This story is by Malta Independent Online Coordinator Albert Galea and MaltaToday's Nicole Meilak.

A Gozo apartment block was being rented out to prospective IIP applicants despite not having been finished yet, an investigative journalistic collaboration has revealed.

The Vista Point apartment block, situated in Marsalforn and managed by Trident Property Management, was a popular choice of residence for several applicants. There are 30 separate application files within the Henley & Partners database that include a rental agreement at Vista Point, which is pictured from the outside above.

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However, the apartment in itself was still under construction while the property was being leased out to applicants.

One email thread from 2014 obtained through the Passport Papers shows how IIP applicant Svetlana Aleynikovas Vista Point apartment was not yet finished when she visited the property with her family two months after signing the lease agreement.

"The family visited their apartment yesterday in Vista Point and met with [the developer]. They were surprised that the construction is not yet finished. It is on the last stage, but still not finished. For example, not all electricity connections are finished, and so on. It is obvious that the client cannot reside in such a property," the email reads.

This information comes from a range of documents provided by a whistleblower pertaining to Henley & Partners' passport, real estate and residency visa sales. The material was first passed on to Daphne Caruana Galizia, and was later taken on by the Daphne Foundation following her death. The information was shared with several media houses as part of a collaboration titled 'The Passport Papers'

In a separate thread, the applicants assistant admitted that this was a minor issue, as the family was not planning on residing there in the first place, but argued that the client should have been informed about the situation beforehand.

As part of the IIP application, prospective applicants would have to provide utility bills from the property they were renting as a proof of residence. But in the case of Vista Point, the property manager supplied invoices to Henley Estates with the following explanation:

Trends Development Ltd. had signed with Enemalta plc (Government subsidiary) an Agreement for the installation of a sub-station to supply electricity, exclusively, to the Vista Point Project. We are advised that installation should commence shortly. Thereon, the meters will be installed in each and every apartment. Due to the above circumstances, Enemalta is supplying electricity under a provisional system.”

The planning application for the building was first submitted on 15 November 2005, and eventually approved by the Planning Authority in 2006. The applicant is Michael Farrugia on behalf of Trends Co Ltd.

According to documents from the Malta Business Registry, Michael Farrugia had previously been a shareholder in Trident Property Management, but his shares were transferred to an Emanuel Joseph Farrugia in 2014.

Part of the proposed application has since been constructed and is now livable, but a large chunk of the plan remains a construction site. The below juxtaposition shows ground floor plans submitted to the Planning Authority vis-a-vis Google Earth imagery from 2019.

The real estate branch of Henley & Partners signed an Introduction Agreement with Trident Property Management in 2015. Through the agreement, Henley & Partners would direct prospective applicants looking to buy real estate for the purposes of the IIP to lease with Trident Property Management.

In return, Henley & Partners would receive a commission fee on each completed transaction.

A separate Introducer Agreement was in place between the two parties, where Trident Property Management would introduce prospective clients to Henley & Partners. Similarly here, Trident Property would receive a 20% commission on the Henley Professional Fee charged to applicants.

Henley & Partners pursued similar agreements with other local developers, including Kempinskis San Lawrenz and Tumas Groups Spinola Development.

One signed document reveals that, for the San Lawrenz agreement, Henley Estates would receive 50% from the first months rent when the client opts for a lease agreement. On the other hand, an unsigned agreement an 8% commission on the net revenue gained from the purchase of property

Another unsigned agreement with Spinola Development allowed for Henley Estates to rake in a 5% sales commission on the total revenue earned through property purchases.

Please note that Trident Property Management Ltd and Michael Farrugia are unrelated to Trident Estates Plc and its director Michael Farrugia.

This is a joint investigation by The Malta Independent and MaltaToday along with other partners, coordinated by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation. The production of this investigation was supported by a grant from the Investigative Journalism for Europe (IJ4EU) fund.

Top photo: Joanna Demarco for the Passport Papers collaboration.
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