Following the publication of the Times of Malta frontpage article this morning, the Ministry for Finance and Employment categorically denies that a deal has been reached with Polidano Group wherein a decrease in the tax due by Polidano Group and related parties to the government was entertained. The allegations that the tax due by Polidano was reduced, and “whittled down to less than € 10 million", are manifestly unfounded and completely false.
As is publicly known, this commercial private entity owes the State substantial tax amounts which run in millions of Euros, with arrears of over twenty years.
Minister Clyde Caruana is on record saying that while taxes will not be increased or new taxes introduced, the Government will ensure that tax dues are collected and tax evasion curbed. This principle of fiscal morality has not and will not change no matter who the individual or company is. Not only that, but the Ministry and its entities will ensure the proper collection of tax.
As regards the other allegation that Polidano Group will be setting off a substantial portion of their tax arrears against property handed over to Government, there will be no property-for-tax swap. The Housing Authority back in 2019 had issued a public expression of interest (“EOI") to acquire centrally located and sizeable parcels of land to be developed for social or affordable housing. Subsequently, an evaluation committee was set up to evaluate the feasibility of each proposal. Three (3) independent architects, who were not part of the evaluation committee, were requested to make a joint valuation of each site offered by bidders.
One of the four (4) proposals received by the Authority's evaluation committee consisted of a two-thousand metres squared (2,000m²) parcel of land at Luqa currently owned by Polidano Properties Limited, adjacent to property already owned by the Housing Authority. This parcel of land was subject to a valuation by the architects engaged by the evaluation committee and a further valuation commissioned by the Office of the Commissioner for Revenue.
On this deed of transfer, the Housing Authority will not be paying the purchase price to Polidano but will be delegated at law to transfer this amount to the Commissioner for Revenue, in settlement of part of the balance due by Polidano. Furthermore, all taxes due in connection with this transfer will be paid to the Government.
The Times of Malta has unfortunately failed to verify the facts before publishing a story based on incorrect assertions, without even trying to verify with the Ministry or send in questions, as should be the proper norm. Such untruthful articles undermine the social contract between a State and its taxpayers, by giving the impression that appeasement is given to the preferred, when in reality the Government has embarked on an exercise to collect tax arrears which have remained uncollected for decades, giving all taxpayers fair and equal treatment to regularise themselves within the parameters of the law. A credible newspaper ought to do better.