Mistra Heights' land to be auctioned, valued at €5.6 million

The land in Xemxija that was to be the site for the massive Mistra Heights apartment complex will go under the hammer, after Ausrtian bank Bawag called in a €42 million loan against developers JPM Brothers.

The land has been valued at €5.6 million and covers a total area of 3,215 square metres.

The land will be sold by court auction in the Valletta law courts.

Unprecedented in Maltese banking history for the value involved, the €42 million loan was signed between Bawag and Gemxija Crown Ltd, the developers of Mistra Heights: 868 residential units in tower blocks of up to 11 storeys high on the site of the former Corinthia Mistra Village, in Xemxija.

Gemxija is jointly owned by a subsidiary of Kuwaiti real estate giant Al Massaleh, and JPM Brothers.

Massaleh's chairman Najeb al Saleh is also a shareholder in investment bank Fimbank, and is currently in talks to sell Massaleh's 38.8% share to Burgan Bank.

Works at Mistra were already at a standstill in 2009, when JPM owners Jeffrey and Peter Montebello were carrying out renovation works on finance minister Tonio Fenech's villa in Balzan. When their sub-contractor complained about not being paid for works, he revealed to MaltaToday how Peter Montebello had told him the works were "a favour" for the minister to broke the sale - that never materialised - of the Jerma hotel in Marsaskala to entrepreneurs George Fenech and Joe Gasan.

It is not yet clear whether Massaleh will continue the development. In the meantime, the Montebellos also managed to divest themselves of the Belmonte Heights apartment complex on Depiro Street, Sliema, but are still stuck with the Jerma Palace Hotel.

The latter was purchased from Libyan-owned Lafico, for eventual conversion into high-end apartments. But a change in planning policy at MEPA prohibited the conversion of hotels into real estate, denting the Montebellos' prospects of developing the property.

MaltaToday then revealed how in summer 2009 the Prime Minister had discussed plans by magnates George Fenech and Joe Gasan to transform the Jerma into a potential 'Portomaso of the south'.

In both the Jerma and the Mistra sales, Labour MP Charles Mangion was the notary for JPM Brothers. Stephen McCarthy, chairman of Union Print, had acted as the Montebello's representative in the sale and was formerly a director of Gemxija Crown.

Source: MaltaToday April 10, 2012

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