Malta

Woman suffers grievous injuries following motorcycle crash

The Malta Independent - 1 ora 6 min fa

A 47-year-old Polish woman lost control of her motorcycle on Wednesday afternoon and was subsequently taken to hospital.

The Police were informed about the crash that occurred in Mdina Road, Birkirkara. at 15:45pm, and found that the woman had lost control of her Junak motorcycle and fell over.

An ambulance was called onto the scene and she was taken to Mater Dei to receive the necessary care. She suffered grievous injuries.

Police investigations are ongoing.

Categorie: Malta

Three people arrested over Qbajjad cocaine, cannabis find

The Malta Independent - 2 ore 38 min fa

Three people have been held by police over the discovery of a substantial amount of cocaine and cannabis that was ready to be trafficked.

One of the arrested persons is a Maltese national while the other two are Serbs. All three reside in Qbajjar.

Drug squad officers raided the residence belonging to the Serbs, finding around 80 grams of suspected cocaine and around 200 grams of suspected cannabis plant. They also found an undisclosed amount of cash.

The suspects are assisting the police in their investigation.

Magistrate Paul Coppini is leading an inquiry.

Categorie: Malta

Loss of BOVs last US correspondent bank could lead to collapse of vital sectors - PN

The Malta Independent - 2 ore 46 min fa

The possibility of BOV having difficulties to process USD transactions after losing its last US corresponding bank could potentially lead to the collapse of vital sectors, the Nationalist Party said on Wednesday.

It was reported on Monday that ING will stop its relationship with BOV in December.  

“The US dollar is the most used currency in trade. BOV is Malta's largest bank and reportedly the only major bank locally handling gaming companies and payment gateways. This news is therefore of grave concern and its impact can be significant,” the PN said.

“The Opposition consistently warned Government and regulators about  the risk of our banks, in particular BOV, finding difficulty in retaining correspondent banking relationships and subsequently start relationships with new correspondent banks.”

As expressed by the Malta Banker's Association (MBA), this development hits at the heart of Malta's financial system. It is even more worrying if this action was not a direct consequence or directly related to BOV's operations. The Minister of Finance's silence on the matter is deafening, the PN said. 

In the statement, signed by MPs Mario de Marco and Kristy Debono, the PN lashed out at the government’s lack of a serious commitment in the fight against the crime of money laundering which, it said, is impacting Malta's reputation. This is in turn impacting the financial services industry. “The same criticism was levelled against Government in the draft Moneyval report, the final version of which will be adopted and published in the coming weeks,” the party said.  

“The risk reward factor for the correspondent banks to keep or start a relationship with a local bank is too high due to the fact that we are a small economy and our local banks have relative small volumes. Thus, it will not be economically viable for these correspondent banks to carry out the rigorous AML and compliance procedures that they must adhere to.” 

“It does not suffice to have legislation in place if the same legislation is not rigorously implemented. It does not suffice to strengthen the FIAU if its reports regarding suspect activities of high level government officials are ignored by the Police. It does not suffice to grow the MFSA if as a regulator it is not truly independent and its actions remain politically drive. It is deplorable to say the least, that the Prime Minister downplays this reality and justifies a major bank losing its only correspondent bank, to being a victim of its own success,” the PN said.

Categorie: Malta

Updated: Court of Appeal overturns swimming pool permit to Minister Borg

The Malta Independent - 3 ore 10 min fa

The Court of Appeal has overturned a Planning Authority permit granted to Planning Minister Ian Borg and his wife, which had allowed them to build a swimming pool on agricultural land adjacent to their home.

In a ruling on Wednesday the court decided that the minister’s proposed development was not permissible and that the Planning Authority had illegally issued a development permit.

Borg’s permit had been challenged by Dingli resident Noel Ciantar, after the Environment and Planning Tribunal partially confirmed, last April an earlier permit granted to the Minister by the PA.

The court accepted Ciantar’s objection that the PA had used a policy which was not applicable to the rural area where Minister Borg had built his controversial home in order to issue a second permit to turn ODZ land into a swimming pool and recreational area.

In its decision, the Court of Appeal said that the PA and the Tribunal could not apply the Rural Policy and Design Guidance document to issue the permit to the Minister as it did not apply to the area where the Minster lives.

Under the applicable plan, a swimming pool in the rural settlement was not permissible.

The court revoked the Tribunal’s decision, together with the original permit issued by the PA, as this was based on the wrong policy.

 

Borg says original permit not revoked

In a Facebook post, Borg said that his legal team had advised him that the court’s decision only revoled the tribunal’s decision. The original permit, he said, was not revoked and is, as such, still valid

In a second post, the minister said he had allowed the Planning Authority, the courts and the media to do their job. He said, however, that a certain journalist was persisting and adding a sentence that did not exist in the court judgment. The court had at no time said that the original permit is being revoked, he reiterated.

Categorie: Malta

Cyclist seriously injured after being hit by car

The Malta Independent - 3 ore 53 min fa

A cyclist was seriously injured this morning after he was hit by a car in Santa Venera, the police said.

The accident took place in Cannon Road at 8.45am.

The 56-year-old man of Iklin was hit by a car driven by a 47-year-old man of Paola.

He was taken to hospital with serious injuries.

Categorie: Malta

DB permit revocation: ‘the people can make a difference’

The Malta Independent - 4 ore 34 min fa

Residents, NGOs and three Local Councils welcome the positive news that the permit for the abusive speculation at St George's Bay by DB Group on the site of the former ITS building has been revoked by the Court of Appeal, in response to a legal challenge filed by them.

The Court of Appeal found that Planning Board member Matthew Pace was in a position of conflict of interest, with his real estate franchise selling parts of the development before the permit was even granted. This led to the Planning Board's decision of 20th September 2018 to be annulled, and the permit revoked.

This has been a long case, from the first core group meetings with concerned residents, to the public meeting to discuss the way forward with the wider community, to the Planning Board meeting which had to change venue due to the unprecedented interest, and then on to the Environmental and Planning Review Tribunal, where we appealed the Planning Board's decision, and then to the Court of Appeal.

These challenges were met thanks to the tremendous support shown by people from all over the islands who responded to our call for crowd funding. Without each and every one of their donations, their support, this would not have been possible. This victory is theirs as much as anyone's.

The residents of Pembroke who, with great courage, spoke truth to power, stood up and made their voice heard, are the real protagonists in this fight. When they saw their quality of life and health threatened, their prospects for a peaceful future buried alive, they did not back down, despite facing very discouraging odds. We also acknowledge the crucial contribution of the three Local Councils – Pembroke, St. Julian’s and Swieqi – that put aside partisan interests and fought for the wellbeing of their communities

Credit is also due to our legal and architectural team composed of Claire Bonello, Ian Vella Galea and Malcolm Mifsud, and Architects Tara Cassar and John Ebejer who had their hearts in this campaign from the very beginning. We need more professionals like them, the NGOs said.

 

This legal challenge was filed by:

- Three Local Councils: Pembroke, St. Julian’s and Swieqi

- Four NGOs: Moviment Graffitti, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA), Din l-Art Ħelwa and Friends of the Earth Malta

- Nine residents

 

Categorie: Malta

Darren Debono, facing fuel smuggling charges, on committee of Maltese Premier League club

The Malta Independent - 4 ore 40 min fa

Darren Debono, who is facing charges of fuel smuggling in Italy, has been elected to the committee of the Maltese Premier League side Senglea Athletic FC.

Debono was arrested on the island of Lampedusa in October 2017 and was subsequently charged in connection with a fuel trafficking operation involving Libya, Italy and Malta. He has since been released on bail and last November was allowed to return to Malta after being released from house arrest in Sicily due to delays in the commencement of his trial.

Debono joined Senglea Athletic FC’s committee in the club’s Annual General Meeting earlier this month, with NET Television’s Replay, One TV’s L-Argument, and TVM Sport all reporting his appointment even though his name is absent from the club’s official post-AGM announcement.

He is however pictured (above) on the club’s Facebook page alongside club President Rueben Debono, former Hibernians goalkeeper and Qormi FC coach Mario Muscat, and UEFA Pro Licence coach Steve Vella, the latter two having signed with the Premier League club to lead them into the coming season.

Sources within the Malta Football Association told The Malta Independent that they were aware of Debono’s entry into the club’s committee and told this newsroom that the association is yet to approve the coming season’s club committees, but will be doing so in around two weeks.

“If he has a criminal record, he cannot be on the committee. He has no criminal record yet as far as we know but the alleged criminality is huge”, the sources said about Debono.

The MFA is also scrutinising all those who wish to join any football club in the island, the sources noted.

TVM Sport described there being an “intimate friendship” between Darren Debono and club President Rueben Debono, who is a notary by profession.  TVM Sport noted that the club is looking to seriously invest in strengthening their squad for the upcoming season.

The club president also said on Replay Ikompli, which airs on NET FM, that Debono will have “an important role” within the club and will be “more than just a committee member”.  The president said that he had been approached by Debono, who said that he would like to help the club in the best way possible.

Replay reported that it seems like Darren Debono will be one of the crucial members of the club to attract a number of promising Maltese players to the club along with other renowned and established Premier League players.

Darren Debono is not a new face to the Maltese football scene, having represented Malta at international level 56 times between 1996 and 2002 and having had long spells playing with established clubs Sliema Wanderers and Valletta FC. 

Senglea Athletic meanwhile are gearing up for their third consecutive season in the BOV Premier League after an impressive second half of the season propelled them to 10th place in the 14-team league and hence to safety from relegation.

 

Categorie: Malta

Ombudsman proposes ‘one-stop-shop’ comprising all government environmental entities, authorities

The Malta Independent - 5 ore 14 min fa

A single governmental “one-stop-shop” should be created to receive every complaint about any environmental related matter, be it on the built environment or the un-built environment, the Commissioner for the Environment and Planning within the Ombudsman’s Office has proposed.

Reacting to the publication of the new draft Avoidance of Damage to Third Party Property Regulations, the Commissioner wrote that the average citizen is wasting a lot of time trying to find which government entity they should refer their complaint to, with serious consequences when the cases are of an urgent nature, and so such a one-stop-shop should be created to make it easier to submit such complaints.

This one-stop-shop – called the Government Authorities, Departments and Entities Related to the Environment Networking Group - would have the power to immediately send the complaint to an enforcement officer; to keep the entities concerned informed about the complaint; to keep a centralised digital archive of all documents, possibly including structural documents prepared by the architect responsible and the results of the tests carried out, that are submitted to government entities; to receive commencement notices for every project; to serve as a collectors of fines; and to serve as a central point where government entities can discuss sticking points between themselves, the document published by the Ombudsman reads.

The commissioner recommends that apart from the existing commencement notice, a ‘prebuilding commencement notice’ which incorporates the signature of the contractor responsible for demolition and excavation along with those off the site manager, architect and developer should also be submitted.

Furthermore, the commissioner writes that the distance between works and dividing walls as prescribed by Article 439 of the Civil Code should be enforced and that projects which are still at prebuilding stage should be amended by the project architect to reflect this article. In the case that excavations have already begun the part of the dividing wall excavated within the distance prescribed by law should be reinforced by a concrete wall or a similar structure as ordered by the architect, the document reads.

Article 439 of the Civil Code stipulates that no excavations can take place within 76 centimetres of the dividing wall between on property and another.

The commissioner explained that more than the Architect, the Site Manager should be on site when important decisions and should within 12 hours submit the orders and plans in writing to the aforementioned one-stop-shop along with proof that the order has been passed to the contractor.

The commissioner also noted that this Act removes the obligation to cut a canal which was necessary to reduce vibrations on contiguous structures. 

“Despite the fact that one can reach agreement on the fact that such a trench can have negative consequence when it is dug with a trencher, there are advantages when this is done with a saw.”

“This hence should be done to a depth of a metre and a half around the perimeter of the site except for where it is certified to be out of reach of the machine or where there may be negative consequences to digging the trench”, the document reads.

The commissioner also suggested that the name of the act should be changed to ‘Regulations for Safety in demolition, excavation, and construction works’ so to reflect the fact that it serves to protect not just third party property but also persons and public areas such as roads.

In the case that owners notice cracks that are not hairline in nature, a detailed report penned by an architect should be sent to the project architect, site manager and one-stop-shop who, on their part, should immediately stop works until direction is given otherwise, the commissioner wrote. This should apply both in the building and prebuilding phase.

“If in this case, the works do not cease, the architect, site manager and contractor should be subject to drastic fines which increase on a day-by-day basis”, the commissioner added.

Furthermore, due to the urgency of certain situations, email notifications to the persons in charge should serve as a legal notice while criminal procedure should also be clarified for those who breach these measures and place the lives of others in danger, the report reads.

Looking at the actual law, the commissioner notes that Article 26(1) of the draft cannot be applied as at the date in which these regulations are enacted it cannot be established with certainty which projects would be ready in the space of a month from that date.

Article 26(1) in the draft bill states that construction works which have started and finished in the space of a calendar month from the date that this law is enacted do not fall under the disposition of this same law.

“It would be better if this article is changed to read that the rules do not apply to those projects which are in the phase wherein the penultimate ceiling has been completed, in which case the current regulations would apply”, the commissioner notes.

Turning to the cases of excavations which have started and need to be completed, the recommendations note that every such excavation should be registered through the submission of a prebuilding commencement notice; that the excavations which are in isolated zones and do not touch on other buildings can continue; that the state of any other excavation should be detailed through a report penned by the project architect and substantiated by pictures – for which measures stipulated in the new Act should stipulated.

Categorie: Malta

Work permits for foreigners: Online application system being tested

The Malta Independent - 5 ore 18 min fa

A new online system that will allow employers to send their applications for non-EU nationals’ work permits is currently being tested, Parliamentary Secretary of Reforms Julia Farrugia Portelli said.

She announced that the government intends on launching the system later this year, and that it is currently in the testing phase.

Recent media reports have shown that individuals are having to queue from the early hours of the morning to deliver the applications, only to sometimes be turned away and asked to return at a later date.

Speaking at the press conference for the launch of a report on simplification, Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar explained that the first mission the government embarked on for public services was to make it a 24/7 service, and now that this had been implemented, the next step is to introduce the “once only principal”.

The goal is to significantly simplify of obtaining services from the government for citizens, which revolves around removing the need of repeatedly filling in different forms requiring the same data.

The target date for this mechanism’s implementation is set at 2021, and Cutajar explained that “this was a very complicated change to bring about, since several government databases were unable to communicate with each other due to the limitations of the technology which was in place”.

The Principal Permanent Secretary added that the government was already thinking of what could come after this step and is now eyeing the use of Artificial Intelligence to continue improving the public service.

“The public service wants to seize to opportunities AI offer which will allow it to not only act promptly, but to help the people using the service to take the next required step in the process.”

Cutajar went on to say that they want to be clear about what they have accomplished, what has not been accomplished and why – going on to note that over 75% of proposals were implemented in 2018, pointing to the three one-stop-shop hubs covering family, taxpayer, and education services.

Categorie: Malta

€3.5 million to be distributed to farmers to compensate for damages caused by February storm

The Malta Independent - 5 ore 23 min fa

€3.5 million of national funds were allocated to help cover the cost of damages caused to farmers by an intense storm last February, Agriculture Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri said today.

The Maltese Islands had experienced widespread damage when winds of up to 133km/h hit the island, with farmers suffering great damage to their produce.

"We gave our commitment and promise that we will do our best and all possible to help the farmer,” said Camilleri.  He explained that Malta had not suffered the necessary €60 million worth of damage to be eligible for the EU assistance.

He said that the Financial Ministry allocated €3.5 million to assist farms, which will cover the cost of damage to rubble walls stone storerooms, tunnels and general damage to farms. He added that the financial assistance will cover up for 45 per cent of the cost of damage.

Applications for the funds remain open till end of September and farmers and small businesses involved in agricultural production who are in the Directorate of Agriculture’s Registry of Farmers are eligible for compensation.

When asked regarding a similar initiative to cover the costs of damages suffered by fishermen, he said that discussions are being held and an initiative will be launched in the coming weeks.

 

Categorie: Malta

Woman in labour escorted to hospital by police after being stuck in traffic

The Malta Independent - 5 ore 51 min fa

A pregnant woman made it to hospital just in time to give birth after she was escorted by police officers.

The police said that this morning at about 6.30am, an officer who was on his way to start a day of work encountered an unusual situation while he was stuck in traffic in Triq Frangisku Pisani, Mosta.

The officer was approached by a driver who said that a woman he was driving to hospital needed urgent assistance as she was in labour.

After the officer called for backup, thanks to the cooperation of the drivers present, he managed to escort the couple with his personal motorcycle until they met the Traffic Police who took over all the way to the hospital.

Thumbs up to our boy in blue and congratulations to the couple, the police said.

 

Categorie: Malta

Woman charged with assaulting police officer at bank branch

The Malta Independent - 5 ore 57 min fa

An argument at a bank branch landed a woman in court this afternoon, after she allegedly assaulted the policewoman on duty.

38-year-old Elizabeth Muscat from Xghajra appeared before magistrate Rachel Montebello, charged with insulting an officer and violently resisting arrest, as well as slightly injuring her. She was also charged with threatening the officer, disobeying legitimate police orders, attacking the officer, exceeding the limits of provocation, breaching the peace, spitting in public, recidivism and breaching a probation order.

The incident in question occurred on May 23 at the San Gwann BOV branch at around 8:30AM.

Inspector Joseph Xerri told the court that the WPC on duty was assaulted by the customer after an argument between the two. Despite being captured on the bank’s CCTV system, Muscat was only arrested almost a month later as she could not be recognised.

Lawyer Michael Sciriha entered a not guilty plea on behalf of the accused and asked for bail, arguing that the majority of the charges were contraventions and the only serious charge is that of violent resistance. “This case happened a month ago and nothing else happened in the meantime. There was possibly some provocation,” said the lawyer, also arguing that there was no risk of Muscat tampering with evidence or escaping from the islands.

“She eats what she earns,” explained the lawyer, telling the court that the accused had insufficient means to afford a deposit. “The little she has in life should not be taken away from her by withholding bail.” He emphasised that there was provocation in this case, but did not elaborate.

The court, after hearing submissions on bail, agreed to release the woman from arrest against a personal guarantee of €5,000. A protection order was also issued in favour of the officer and a probation officer was appointed to supervise the woman whilst on bail.

The court explained the implications of the bail conditions and protection order to the accused, telling her not to set foot in the branch in question. “This is not a joke; there are very harsh punishments - prison and a fine of €4,000 to €7,000k for breaching the protection order.”

 

Categorie: Malta

More than 2,000 requests for international protection received in 2018 – NSO

The Malta Independent - 6 ore 3 min fa

A total of 2,131 applications for international protection were received by the Office of the Refugee Commissioner during 2018 – an increase of 15.9 per cent over the preceding year, the NSO said today.

During 2018, 16 boat landings (including persons air lifted from sea) were recorded in Malta with 1,445 persons being brought to Maltese shores. The majority of persons brought to shore were citizens of African countries (80.1 per cent) while 19.9 per cent were citizens of Asian countries.

A total of 2,131 applications were lodged with the Office of the Refugee Commissioner during 2018 – an increase of 15.9 per cent over the previous year. When analysing asylum applications in the context of the European Union – applications per million population – Malta ranked third after Cyprus and Greece. The majority of applications were lodged by citizens of African countries (60.2 per cent). When considering individual countries with regards to the total applications for asylum, the largest proportion of the applicants were Syrian citizens (22.8 per cent). A further 15.0 per cent and 14.5 per cent were Somali and Libyan citizens respectively.

During 2018, the Office of the Refugee Commissioner processed a total of 1,500 applications: 43.1 per cent were granted a positive decision at first instance, while the remaining applications were rejected (56.9 per cent). More than half of the applicants who were granted a form of protection status during the year under review were citizens of African countries (59.3 per cent) while a further 37.8 per cent were citizens of Asian countries. Of all the applicants granted a form of protection status during 2018, 35.3 per cent were of Syrian citizenship while 34.5 per cent were of Libyan citizenship.

An increase of 30.5 per cent was registered in the resident population of open centres and other institutional households when compared to the preceding year. The majority of this population was residing in Ħal Far (71.9 per cent). The largest share of residents were males (77.0 per cent) while 13.8 per cent and 13.0 per cent were Sudanese and Somali respectively.

During the year under review, 79 third-country nationals were resettled to another country – a decrease of 54.3 per cent over 2017. A further 22 persons benefited from assisted voluntary return programmes.

 

Categorie: Malta

Antonio Mizzi appointed Commissioner of Laws, replacing Franco Debono

The Malta Independent - 6 ore 56 min fa

Judge Emeritus Antonio Mizzi has been appointed Commissioner of Laws for one year, with a possibility of an extension, the government said today. The appointment is backdated to 1 June.

He replaces Franco Debono, whom the government thanked for services rendered.

Mizzi served extensively in the courts of law, as a magistrate appointed in 1987 and later as a judge from 2013 to 2018.

Debono had public stated that he did not want his contract to be extended.

Categorie: Malta

PD ‘will work’ to restore Malta's reputation in international finance

The Malta Independent - 7 ore 1 min fa

Partit Demokratiku said today it is “a myth” that ING’s decision to pull out its correspondence banking with Bank of Valletta “is a symptom of BOV's success”, as the Prime Minister has said. It is also insulting people’s intelligence, PD said in a statement.

“ING's decision is a wake-up call. Some see us as dodgy and shady. We want to show the opposite. Led by PD, Malta will do good business, not shady business," stated interim leader Godfrey Farrugia.

PD insists that Joseph Muscat should stop taking the entire finance and gaming industry for a ride. The whole world is ramping up its fight against money laundering following recent scandals whilst Malta, as a jurisdiction, is internationally being seen to be moving in the other direction. This is undoubtedly why BOV is losing its last Correspondent Bank, not because of "Its success". Outside of the EU, a US Correspondent Bank acts as an international clearing house easing the process of connecting banks in order to allow payments. Without it, each BOV transaction outside of the EU will take much longer and will cost much more to process.

Partit Demokratiku reminded the public that:

(1) a significant portion of the Maltese gaming sector is active in targeting clients outside of the EU;

(2) credit cards from such countries generally block gaming transactions; and

(3) no other Maltese bank that has access to a Correspondent Bank is currently active in the Gaming industry.

 

Categorie: Malta

Breaking news - Court halts DB project: Planning permit revoked

The Malta Independent - 9 ore 17 min fa

The massive DB project at the former ITS site in St George's Bay has hit a major snag after the appeals court ruled today that the planning permit granted in September last year is null and void.

Judge Mark Chetcuti ruled that planning board member Matthew Pace had a conflict of interest because of his involvement in real estate when he voted on the project.

The court was deciding on an appeal filed by local councils and several environment groups against a decision by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal that had ruled in favour of the permit.

"The court... revokes the tribunal's decision and considers the planning board's decision of 20 September 2018, in these cricumstances, to be null and void," Chetcuti ruled.

This means that the PA decision to grant the DB Group a planning permit no longer holds and the PA will have to reconsider the case.

In her first reaction after the ruling, lawyer Claire Bonello, who filed the appeal on behalf of the local councils and several organisation, said this was a victory for all those who opposed the project.

Background to the case

The lawsuit was made possible by a crowdfunding initiative last October, when over €26,000 were raised to cover legal expenses for actions against the project. This led to an appeal against the decision taken on 20 September by the Planning Board.

After three months of hearings, the planning appeals tribunal gave the go ahead for the DB Project but Transport Malta had to confirm within 30 days that the road network will cater for the additional traffic before a final compliance certificate is issued to the project.

The developer was also instructed to create an additional 270 square metres of public open space and reduce the height of the tower by 10m, and that of the hotel by 8m.

But the tribunal had turned down other objections by the appellants including that of an alleged conflict of interest of PA board member Matthew Pace.

Matthew Pace’s conflict

The appellants questioned the compatibility between financial services broker Matthew Pace’s interest as a co-owner in the Swieqi branch of property agents Remax, which was advertising apartments in the project.

They also questioned the overall suitability of Pace to serve on the board when he had a direct and clear interest in an activity, which may conflict with his position in a board that has quasi-judicial powers.

The activists argued that this should have disqualified him from serving on the planning board of which he has been a member since 2013.

But the tribunal dismissed these claims, arguing that “other members of the board had publicly expressed how they would be voting” – adding that it is these members who may have had a conflict of interest.

They also referred to “proof” submitted by Pace that advertising for the apartments was done by different estate agents. On the basis of this the Tribunal concluded that the fact “that Pace had an interest in one of these agencies did not put in doubt his impartiality or create a conflict of interest.”

It was here that the tribunal hinted that the argument that this member should not vote in such circumstances “can be extended to the NGO representative whose public agenda is always declared”.

It also extended the argument to party representatives arguing that the argument can be stretched to projects located in the districts they represent”.

The tribunal also noted that the law itself dictated that independent members of the board should be chosen for their knowledge and experience in various areas including commerce and industry, cultural heritage and participation in civil society organisations.

“If taken to an extreme the argument of the appellants would create a situation of permanent conflict of interests for everyone,” the tribunal had ruled.

After this decision, the Pembroke, St Julian’s and Swieqi councils, Moviment Graffitti, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Din l-Art Ħelwa and Friends of the Earth Malta and nine residents filed an appeal in the law courts asking for a judicial review of the tribunal's decision.

It is this court decision that was decreed today.

The project

The €300 million City Centre project, which includes a 37-storey tower and 17-storey hotel, was approved in September 2018 despite an unprecedented 4,500 objections from the public, local councils and NGOs.

The project is earmarked on the site that used to house the former tourism school. Controversy surrounded the granting of the ITS public land to the DB Group in 2017 for a premium of €15 million spread over seven years.

The government would have also raked in €23.4 million from redeemed leases when the residential apartment are sold.


 

Categorie: Malta

Law report: Examining the requisites for the institution of the actio spolii

The Malta Independent - 9 ore 25 min fa

In Agius v. Micallef, decided 6 June 2019, the Court of Appeal considered the requirements relating to actions for the restoration of possession in the case of spoliation (“kawza ta’ spoll; actio spolii”).

Proceedings for an action for spoliation were instituted against the defendant as the owner of the plaintiff’s neighbouring tenement, with the latter arguing that the defendant had made improvements to his roof over which he had rights of access. The plaintiff in fact argued that the contested works had been carried out without his knowledge and that the overall effect was that his access to the defendant’s was curtailed.

The First Hall of the Civil Court delivered its judgment on this matter on the 4 October 2017. In coming to its decision, the First Hall set out the three elements required for the successful institution of the actio spolii, namely: (i) possession by the plaintiff of a movable or immovable thing; (ii) a situation by virtue of which the plaintiff is deprived of his possession or detention through violent or clandestine spoliation; and (iii) institution of proceedings within two months from the act of spoliation, and not from the date on which the act becomes known to the plaintiff. These requirements, which emerge from Article 535(1) of the Civil Code, must exist concurrently, to the extent that if the plaintiff fails to prove any one of these requisites, the action is quashed without the need for examination of the remaining two requisites.

In coming to its decision, the First Hall examined the nature of the action by making extensive reference to local jurisprudence such as Vincenzina Cassar et vs Annetto Xuereb Montebello, whereby it was noted that the Maltese Courts had been consistent in their interpretation of the relevant Civil Code provisions over the years. It was further noted that the actio spolii was motivated by principles of public order (“di ordine pubblico”) and was intended to eliminate the private usurpation of powers belonging to the public authorities. In other words, the actio spolii is intended to preclude individuals from taking matters into their own hands without first going through the appropriate channels and making their case before a court of Civil jurisdiction. Any person wishing to change a status of fact, must do so legally. As such, the defendant in a spoliation suit brought within the period of two months from the day on which the spoliation took place, may not raise any plea other than a dilatory plea before s/he shall have restored the thing to its former condition and fully revested the party despoiled, without prejudice to any other right appertaining to the defendant.

Interestingly, our courts have, over time, expressed the view that actions for the restoration of possession in the case of spoliation are rooted on the exigency of public order and not necessarily on principles of justice, so much so that in proving possession, the law does not contemplate proving ownership of the movable or immovable in question, but proving mere possession. Crucially, therefore, in terms of the Civil Code, restoration of the thing may be ordered by the court even though the defendant may be the owner of the thing of which the plaintiff has been despoiled. It was further noted that the law does not require legitimacy of the possession either and that therefore the actio spolii may be successful even with respect to persons holding property in bad faith.

Following the above mentioned discussion, the First Hall proceeded to apply the legal requisites of the action to the facts of the case at hand, noting that that both properties had been passed to the respective owners by their fathers, and that the defendant’s father had allowed the plaintiff’s father to access the roof and keep bird cages. As such, the First Hall established that although the plaintiff was not the owner of the tenement in question, the latter did, in fact, enjoy access to the disputed roof and that these rights had been established over time. The First Hall noted that acts of spoliation could take place even by the owner of a tenement against third party possession thereof and that the defendants did not have the right to disturb the plaintiffs in the exercise of any right pertaining to them by means of unilateral action on their part. The First Hall was additionally satisfied that action had been instituted within two months from the date of the spoliation, and proceeded to deliver judgment in the plaintiff’s favour.

The defendants appealed the decision taken by the First Hall, arguing mainly that the plaintiff did not, in fact, have rights of possession over the roof in question and that as the owners of the tenement, they had the right to carry out any developments or improvements thereon, as desired. The defendants further argued that the defendants had merely tolerated access to the roof by the plaintiff, but that this was not tantamount to possession. In any event, the defendants finally argued that the developments carried out by them over the property in question, were not prejudicial to the plaintiff. Plaintiff rebutted these claims both in fact and by arguing that the First Hall been correct in its appreciation of the facts. As such, and in accordance with established local jurisprudence, the Court of Appeal should refrain itself from the findings of the First Hall unless it became convinced that there existed serious grounds for it to do so.

In coming to its decision, the Court of Appeal argued that allegations of dispossession by the plaintiffs needed only to be proven on a prima facie basis, and that the action would be inadmissible if the plaintiffs had failed to prove their claims to the Court on a preliminary basis. The Court noted that its decision rested mainly on whether the plaintiff did, indeed, exercise possession of the contested rooftop or whether his access thereto had been a mere act of tolerance which was allowed by the defendants but did not give rise to any legal rights. The latter, it was argued, would not be tantamount to possession for the purposes of the actio spolii. In distinguishing between the two, the Court noted that acts of tolerance were acts which were accepted for reasons of courtesy or acts which could be stopped by the person tolerating such acts at any given time – as such, acts of tolerance were often transitory in nature.

Following due consideration of the facts, the Court of Appeal argued that the defendants had failed to bring enough evidence to convince it of the fact that the plaintiff did not enjoy any rights of possession over their tenement. The Court was not convinced of the argument that the defendant’s father had merely allowed access to the roof as an act of tolerance and since the works had been carried out without the knowledge of the plaintiff, and had had the effect of reducing the plaintiff’s access to the roof, the Court of Appeal joined the First Hall in delivering judgment in the plaintiff’s favour.

 

Dr Vanessa Gatt is an Advocate at GANADO Advocates

Categorie: Malta

UN says nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

The Malta Independent - 9 ore 45 min fa

A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the U.N. refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world's 20th most populous country.

The annual "Global Trends" report released by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world's refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.

The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the U.S., against immigrants and refugees.

Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for U.S. President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it "damaging" to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.

The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.

UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65% increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.

"The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction," Grandi told reporters in Geneva. "There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved."

The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the "displacement situations" have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.

Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.

UNHCR said that its figures are "conservative" and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.

Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.

Grandi predicted a continued "exodus" from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.

"Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees," he said. "We are in a very dangerous situation."

The United States, meanwhile, remains the "largest supporter of refugees" in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The U.S. is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.

But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world's biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.

He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.

"In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values," Grandi said. "And I want to say to the U.S. administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging."

He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from "the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens."

The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.

The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.

"Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten," said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. "Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights."

Categorie: Malta

Indepth: The Nationalist Party does not belong to its MPs – Dione Borg

The Malta Independent - 9 ore 47 min fa

An electoral campaign should be planned by a strategy team which is distinct from the parliamentary group, journalist Dione Borg said.

This week on Indepth, Editor-in-Chief Rachel Attard hosted Borg, a PN candidate for the last MEP election, and Executive Editor of MaltaToday Matthew Vella to discuss the situation the Nationalist Party finds itself in following its historic defeat in the recent elections.

When it was pointed out by the host that the previous guest, ex-President of the Executive Committee of the Nationalist Mark Anthony Sammut, had claimed that the PN's campaign team was composed of three people and shrouded in secrecy, Borg explained that every political party has its own strategy team which would not be made up of all the members of the parliamentary group.

"This is because the whole parliamentary group with all the MPs would have their own commitments," he said.

He did accept that it was debatable as to whether the strategy team could have been bigger or smaller, adding that there had been a strategy team under every Nationalist Party leader.

"I have no doubt that (Prime Minister) Joseph Muscat is not discussing everything with the parliamentary group but with his strategy team," Borg maintained, adding that it was exactly how he believes things should be done.

The distinction between the operations of the parliamentary group and the party is not only one that is needed for Nationalist Party, but for democracy and society, he continued.

"That is why I am proposing to use this time until the end of the year (for the PN) to make these reforms - to then move forward as a different party in 2020."

Borg pointed out that when Muscat had an issue with the Secretary General of the time Jason Micallef, he simply removed the post and created a new position.

"Adrian Delia must strengthen the leadership team around him, or else he will have problems."

The Establishment and The Elite

In response to the idea of creating structures, Vella pointed out that it would be problematic considering that there is a situation in the Nationalist Party where a group of MPs "are having memories of the glory days" and thinking that "they have absolute power to command how the party must behave" - particularly when they cannot even accept the democratic decision of the party members.

"Until there is this conflict between what is being labelled the establishment or elite of the party and the others who give their support to Delia, then it will remain a problem for Delia even if he decides to restructure and create new spaces for new ideas."

Vella clarified with examples of where this has come up including when Delia had to make a decision on Simon Busuttil after Egrant, and Jean-Pierre Debono.

On the note of new leadership, he said that "one day that is what is going to have to happen", adding that he does not believe that Delia would be the Prime Minister of Malta, whilst conceding that anything can happen in Maltese politics.


Categorie: Malta

Watch: First part of upgraded Msida Valley bridge open to traffic

The Malta Independent - 9 ore 59 min fa

The first part of the upgraded Msida Valley bridge was opened to traffic today, Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg said.

The work on the project, set to widen the stretch of road to three lanes each way, started in November. It is aimed to improve the traffic flow on one of the busiest carriageways.

In a statement, Infrastructure Malta said opened the first half of the Msida Valley Road Bridge, after it rebuilt it with a wider deck to accommodate the new lanes of Regional Road.     

The first two lanes of this new overpass are replacing Regional Road’s existing southbound lanes over the old bridge next to it. In the coming weeks, Infrastructure Malta will shift the two northbound lanes to the new bridge as well, so that it can rebuild the rest of the old structure and integrate it in the new design of Regional Road.

The Regional Road project includes the reconstruction and widening of part of this road to six lanes, three in each direction, from the Tal-Qroqq Tunnels in Msida towards Santa Venera. This stretch of road links with several other arterial roads through slip roads and other junctions. All these connections are being modified to improve their safety and efficiency.

Built in the 1970s, the Msida Valley Road Bridge spans the two carriageways of Regional Road over Msida Valley Road. It is being rebuilt to accommodate the additional lanes and to optimise the road’s alignment and superelevation, for increased safety.    

Earlier this year, Infrastructure Malta constructed and opened the first stretches of the two additional Regional Road lanes. It also built the foundations and abutments of the new bridge and demolished part of the existing one. The new bridge deck opened this week is supported on six 20-metre prestressed concrete beams weighing 24 tonnes each. When the second half of the structure is built, this bridge will be the widest one in Malta, extending 23.5 metres.     

The 1.1 kilometres new lanes being added along Regional Road will improve the safety of a number of junctions along this north-south route, whilst increasing its capacity and efficiency by reducing waiting times at its merging lanes and exits.

In the northbound carriageway, from the Santa Venera tunnels towards Msida, one of the additional lanes will provide safer access from the slip roads connecting Msida Valley Road, Old Railway Track, in Birkirkara and Kappillan Mifsud Road, in Santa Venera to Regional Road. Further north, part of this new lane has already been constructed and opened to road users. This lane is reducing travel times when exiting Regional Road through the slip road in the direction of the Birkirkara Bypass (Dun Karm Psaila Road), the University of Malta and Mater Dei Hospital.

A long section of the additional lane in the southbound carriageway is already in use. This lane will continue improving vehicle flows down the ramp connecting the Birkirkara Bypass and the Tal-Qroqq (skatepark) roundabout with Regional Road’s southbound carriageway by replacing the existing short merging lane with an uninterrupted lane towards Santa Venera. The same lane will eventually also provide safer access to the Regional Road exit towards Old Railway Track and Kappillan Mifsud Road (Birkirkara), the two roads converging at the Birkirkara-Santa Venera roundabout.

Categorie: Malta