The Malta Independent 18 April 2024, Thursday
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Arnold Cassola testifies in MDA president’s libel case

Tuesday, 31 January 2023, 14:11 Last update: about 2 years ago

Independent candidate Arnold Cassola today gave what he said were examples of how Malta Developers Association president Michael Stivala had benefited under the Labour administration during the tenure of Joseph Muscat.

Cassola was giving evidence before Magistrate Rachel Montebello in a libel case instituted against him by Stivala following social media posts Cassola had uploaded.

Stivala had publicly confirmed employing Muscat as a consultant, a few months after Muscat had resigned as prime minister.

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Called to the witness stand, Cassola confirmed that he had uploaded the Facebook posts himself. Asked by defence lawyer Vince Galea to explain what he meant by the allegation that Stivala had “gifted various illegalities” to Muscat, Cassola replied that he would be giving a non-exhaustive list in his testimony, but would present a detailed affidavit before the next sitting.

The construction projects he mentioned included a multi storey ta’ Xbiex property built in 2016 on a buffer zone where high rise buildings could not legally be built.

Two years earlier, Stivala had applied to develop the interior of a 19th Century Grade 2 house in St Julian’s, near Barracuda, Cassola said. “This is a protected zone of the coast, as established in the local plan. The superintendence of cultural heritage had recommended that planning permission be refused… but through the usual interpretations or distortions of the law, the permit was approved… this all took place under Joseph Muscat’s premiership.”

Cassola added that the construction dust had been dumped in Balluta Bay, “turning the sea to cream,” and constituting another illegality.

The defendant also mentioned a private lido belonging to Stivala on the Gzira waterfront.  “In 2015, Stivala had declared to Parliament that this private pool was owned by a consortium and couldn’t be divided up…Today we see advertisements for parts of it being divided between four hotels.”

“Stivala is continuing with the illegalities and is ignoring court orders,” Cassola said. Asked what made him say this, he explained that a judge had issued an order for Stivala to stop construction works in Ponsomby Street, Gzira, “but he has carried on.”

His testimony was suspended until the next sitting for Cassola to submit an affidavit together with supporting evidence.

Galea asked for the case to be dealt with without delay: “These allegations, which are still not clear, are causing enormous problems to Stivala’s business interests,” he said.

The case will continue in March.

Eve Borg Costanzi is representing Cassola in the proceedings.

 

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