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MALTATODAY 12 December 2021

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12 NEWS maltatoday | SUNDAY • 12 DECEMBER 2021 Air Malta fuel debt totalled €23 million KURT SANSONE AIR Malta owed the State- owned Enemed €22.8 million for fuel supplies by the end of 2020 as payments to clear the pending balance ground to a halt. Air Malta is Enemed's largest debtor with the amount owed representing 51% of what the fuel supplier was owed by debt- ors in the period between 2014 and 2020. The information comes from the annual report of the Na- tional Audit Office for 2020, which was tabled in parliament last week. In a review of Enemed's op- erations, the NAO established that while in 2019, Air Malta had made payments totalling €30 million, in 2020 the com- pany only settled €9.3 million. And by mid-April 2021, only €1.5 million were paid to clear the pending balance. The NAO report said that ac- cording to Enemed, both par- ties were in discussion with government "in order to obtain funding to settle its overdue balance". Air Malta, like all airlines, sustained major losses as a re- sult of the COVID-19 pandem- ic when international travel was hit by restrictions. In October, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana told sister news- paper Illum that he expects the airline to lose between €25 mil- lion and €30 million next year. He insisted the scale of losses depends on what happens to the tourism sector as it recov- ers from the pandemic. Government is in talks with the European Commission to get clearance for a state aid package to shore up the airline but negotiations have been go- ing on since last year. The airline's accounts for the past two years have not been published and Caruana refused a request by Opposition MP Claudio Grech for the airline's financial estimates to be tabled in parliament. "The request for Air Malta's financial estimates concerns information that is commer- cially sensitive and cannot be met," Caruana told parliament last week. MATTHEW VELLA 30 years have passed since the government's expropriation of a family's field in Gharghur used for the construction of a row of townhouses in 1991. And yet, their fight for right- ful compensation – a process fraught with irregularities, de- lays and legal disputes – has been exasperating. In October 2021, the Agius family's request for €2 million in compensation for 2,200sq.m field was trimmed down to just €877,000. But adding insult to injury, the Lands Authority is appealing the decision, insisting the family is only owed €16,500 for what they claim was an agri- cultural field at the time. "So many years have passed, so many members of the family have suffered under the weight of not knowing whether they would ever be compensated... the Lands Authority's appeal is just a slap in the face in a saga of injustice," said one family member. When Carmelo And Giusep- pa Agius's field in Gharghur was expropriated by the gov- ernment in 1992 to be turned into plots for two-storey hous- es, the Agius family had to wait 23 years before they were even allowed to file for rightful com- pensation. From beginning to end, the Agius family contends, the ex- propriation of their family's ag- ricultural plot was carried out irregularly by the government of the time. Well before the President of the Republic issued his decla- ration of intent to expropri- ate land – a formal notice in the government gazette – the Housing Authority had started advertising the plots of land for terraced housing in December 1991. Instead of finalising the ex- propriation – by first legally instituting the Lands Authority as the owner of the land, then transferring the land by legal notice to the Housing Author- ity – the government simply dished out the plots to home ownership scheme bidders. The President's 'intent to ex- propriate' was only published in the Gazette on 12 June 1992, well after some 11 bidders had been selected for the home ownership scheme. The Agi- uses were left breathless at the speed of the expropriation and Family's anger battle that The 1990s expropriation of a Gharghur family's agricultural holding left them waiting three decades for a legal avenue to claim compensation. Now that a tribunal has granted them half of their claim, the Lands Authority wants to oppose their compensation "So many members of the family have suffered under the weight of not knowing whether they would ever be compensated... the Lands Authority's appeal is just a slap in the face in a saga of injustice

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