Ian Borg ignored pleas from family not to buy land a day before purchase
The son of Anthony Scicluna, the man who sold Parliamentary Secretary Ian Borg a parcel of land under what his children claim are dubious circumstances, said that his father had been suffering from mental illness for 25 years, a sworn affidavit shows.
His sister, Sharon Scicluna, also swears that on the very day that she learned her father’s land was to be sold to Dr Borg – 12 January 2014 – she immediately sent a message to Dr Borg to inform him that
the land belonging to her father was not for sale, but he did not reply. The property was sold to Dr Borg the next morning.
Parliamentary Secretary for the EU presidency and EU funds Ian Borg, however, hotly disputes such a claim, having said in a previous interview with The Malta Independent on Sunday: “The decision to sell the property was free and unhindered.”
Dr Borg also said that, in actual fact, Anthony Scicluna is contesting claims of mental illness through his lawyer.
This newsroom requested a copy of the sworn affidavits of three of Mr Scicluna’s children: Sharon, Alexander and Christopher Scicluna. In these affidavits, all three said that their father had always expressed his wish for the land to be passed on to his children. In his affidavit, Christopher Scicluna quoted his father as saying: “That [the land] was passed on to me from my father, it is your inheritance.”
In the same interview between Dr Borg and this newsroom, he unequivocally stated that during the signing of the contract of sale at notary Anton Borg’s office, there was no medical doctor in the room and he claimed that Mr Scicluna Sr is being abused by his children’s claims of mental illness:
“When you went to the notary, did Ninu mention that he has mental problems? Was there a doctor in the office?” this newsroom had asked. “No. No. No. Not for this contract, nor for the other,” Dr Borg replied.
He also confirmed that in the notary’s office at the time were Mr Scicluna Sr and Dr Borg’s two middlemen: Mark Farrugia and Frank Sammut.
However, in the sworn affidavit signed by Alexander Scicluna, he said that following the discovery of the sale of land, he had made several attempts to contact Dr Borg to try and stop the transaction in view of his father repeatedly expressing his wish to pass on the land to his children and in view of his long-standing mental illness.
When Alexander Scicluna eventually got through to Dr Borg, he said to him: “Do you know what you have done with a sick person?”
According to his affidavit, Dr Borg replied: “Be careful what you are saying. This is you saying it,” and eventually telling him that there had been a doctor present at Notary Anton Borg’s office.
Validity of sale
In her affidavit, Sharon Scicluna says that the land in question had been handed down to Mr Anthony Scicluna from his father in 2009. In the contract, she said, there is a clause which says that the mother of Anthony Scicluna, and therefore Sharon Scicluna’s grandmother, has the right to enjoy the land exclusively for the rest of her life. Ms Scicluna said that in the contract of sale between her father and Dr Borg, her grandmother’s signature was nowhere to be seen – meaning that she had not given her consent.
“My grandmother did not feature in the 2014 contract, not personally or through a legal procurator,” she said.
She also wrote that her cousin – and the middleman of Dr Borg – Mark Farrugia, was well-aware of her father’s mental condition. “Naturally, my cousin knew of what my father suffers from, and he’s known from the start of his illness, for many years.”
Dr Borg paid a total of €11,700 for the property – €10,000 for the land and an additional €1,700 in respect of expenses and taxes.
In the affidavit of Alexander Scicluna, he said he had been aware of Dr Borg’s wish to buy the land from his father as early as the end of September. He said that it was the driver of Ian Borg himself who had floated the idea to him originally, and after he had refused a number of people had approached him about selling the land:
“...before the Feast of St Catherine (which is held on the last Sunday of September) 2013, I don’t remember exactly when, I had spoken to the driver of Ian Borg about some activities for the feast and he brought up the subject of the field and asked me if I wanted to sell it to Ian Borg.
“I immediately told him that we were not interested. From that day onwards, a number of people from Ian Borg’s circle, including other members of my family who are close to Ian Borg, spoke to me or sent messages in order to exert pressure on us to sell to Dr Borg.”
Mr Scicluna explained that while dropping off his mother at home, following lunch in Marsaxlokk, they met his brother, Christopher, who told them that their father was in a bad mental state and drunk. He also informed them that Mr Scicluna Sr was upset with them and that had told his son that the land had been sold to Dr Borg.
“I immediately called Dr Borg to stop the sale of land, but somebody else answered the phone saying that Dr Borg was not there,” said Alexander Scicluna.
He subsequently found his father at a Labour Party club. “I went to the door and called him, but my father said he did not know who I was.”
After some attempts, Mr Scicluna said that his father remained inside, so he left, thinking that the most his father could have done was make a promise of sale and that, “with the conditions tied to the land, we could break the deal.”
The following morning, Alexander Scicluna tried to call middleman Mark Farrugia, but he did not answer. That evening, he phoned Dr Borg, which is when the latter told him to be careful about referring to his father as being mentally ill, and it was just something he was saying (Dak int qed tghidu). This is also when Dr Borg told him that there had been a doctor present in the notary’s office when the contract was signed.
Sharon Scicluna also spoke of making contact with Dr Borg. She said that on 12 January 2014, the same day that Chris Scicluna had informed his siblings that the land had been sold, “I immediately sent a message to Dr Borg to tell him that the land belonging to our father was not for sale, but he did not reply.”
The land in question is in Rabat’s picturesque Santa Katerina valley, directly adjacent to another property Dr Borg also subsequently purchased. Dr Borg is facing accusations of abuse of power for private gain after the former Malta Environment and Planning Authority expeditiously granted a development permit in a rural area for a residential project stretching across both acquired properties, as reported previously by this newspaper.
In January 2014, Dr Borg purchased this property from 66year-old Anthony Scicluna, who suffers from a serious mental disorder and has been described by his consultant psychiatrist as being vulnerable and unable to take decisions.
The 655 square metre property, roughly the size of a football pitch’s penalty area and which Mr Scicluna’s family says has been owned and farmed by them for generations, was sold for the sum of €10,000, without his family’s knowledge. Moreover, included in the bargain basement price was a 16 square metre water tank in an adjacent field and a nearby 16 square metre windmill.
While several attempts at the time to convince Mr Scicluna to part with the land, which he had inherited from his father, had proved unsuccessful as Mr Scicluna had consistently refused their approaches, a deal was finally struck on 13 January 2014.