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Archbishop Faces Protestors Over Gozo Land Grab After Testimony

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Malta’s Archbishop Charles Scicluna was met with protests from residents, activists, and the Qala Mayor after his testimony concerning a land grab in Gozo.

The court case involves a family facing eviction from their home build on land held by their ancestors for 130 years, which has been featured extensively in Lovin Malta.

The defendants, the Cauchi family, live in a house at Ta Marga, a hamlet on the outskirts of Qala on the way to Ħondoq Ir-Rummien.

Protestors on site told Lovin Malta that they were there to defend their homes being taken away from them. Police were on site to curb the protestors and shield Scicluna from their criticism. 

Ancestors leased the land in 1891 from the Beneficcju ta Sant Antonio Delli Navarra, a medieval foundation, or benefice, that was set up to raise money for pious deeds. The residents then converted the lease into outright ownership in the 1990s on the back of various laws.

Foundation rector Patrick Valentino is now seeking to evict the family on the basis that converting their lease to ownership was done outside the bounds of those laws, and in a “deceptive” and “fraudulent” manner. 

The archbishop is embroiled in the case because he had decisive power over the granting of land placed under the foundation. In 2017 Scicluna appointed Valentino as rector and then ceded his power of veto over land transfers. 

Dei Conti belongs to six Stagno Navarra siblings who claim to be descended from foundation foundress Cosmana Navarra.

The archbishop accepted their claim despite the fact that they produced no independently-verified evidence of their descent, and then went on to sign a contract with them and Valentino in which the archbishop “renounced the right” – vested in the archbishop by the foundress – to give his consent over land transfers. 

The land transferred to Dei Conti is about the size of a football pitch; the Cauchi house sits on a small part of it.

Dei Conti have since been selling, or doing preliminary agreements, on parts of it for development. This includes a parcel on which an application for a block of ten flats is currently being processed by the Planning Authority, as well as another plot on which the daughter of the lawyer Carmelo Galea got a permit to build a house. 

What do you think of the issue?

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Julian is the Editor at Lovin Malta with a particular interest in politics, the environment, social issues, and human interest stories.

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