In the declaration of assets submitted to parliament last week, Agriculture Minister Anton Refalo refers to a house called Newwieha as his residence, but there is no mention of the twin building next door called Ferrieha. Land Registry records show that the two twin buildings with their sizeable swimming pools and grounds outback are owned by Refalo and his wife, and their business associates Maryanne and Anthony Cauchi.

This website received no response to an email and text message sent to Refalo about Ferrieha’s non-inclusion in the declaration of assets. 

A planning permit for the two twin houses was granted to Maryanne Cauchi in 2004. The buildings boast sweeping views of Comino and the sea between Malta and Gozo. The buildings’ entire pool area and grounds outback, as well as a sliver of the main buildings themselves, falls beyond the development zone.  

The two farmhouses (in yellow) spill beyond the development zone (development zone boundary marked with red line) - click to enlarge

Labour was in opposition in 2004, and Refalo was Labour’s most popular Gozitan MP in terms of votes. The PN was in government at the time, and the head of the secretariat of then Gozo Minister Giovanna Debono was Anthony Borg who, as reported by this website earlier this week, around a decade later partnered with the Refalos and the Cauchis on a seven-storey building on Xlendi’s seafront. Anthony Borg’s son, Alex, is now the PN’s most popular Gozitan MP in terms of votes.  

Newwieha is used as the agricultural minister’s residence while Ferrieha is rented out as a farmhouse, possibly on a bed and breakfast basis.

Although Ferrieha is called a farmhouse in some promotional material, strictly speaking it is not an old farmhouse and it never functioned as a dwelling in which farm animals were kept or as a dwelling attached to farmland.

No building existed on site prior to the acquisition of a planning permit by Maryanne Cauchi in 2004. This makes the two buildings only about 15 years old – aerial photography shows that they were in final stages of construction in 2008. They are built in a vernacular farmhouse style, both in terms of architectural design as well as material, making use of recycled old stones.

As a rental, Ferrieha is not cheap: a Facebook promotion made in summer of 2020, at the height of tourist season in Gozo, advertised the farmhouse as “starting from €500 a day.”

The promotional flyer for Ferrieha (Source: Facebook)

It is not known what agreement exists between the two couples who own the twin houses. Minister Anton Refalo told this website that he does not receive any rental income from Ferrieha.

Minister Refalo’s residence, Newwieha, has been in the news this year after pictures emerged of a VR marker mounted in its courtyard. VR markers were mounted on top of streetside walls in the nineteenth century during the reign of Queen Victoria (who died in 1901) to mark the boundaries of State (or Crown) land – VR stands for Victoria Regina.

The pictures of the VR marker in Newwieha’s courtyard published in various media originated from a source who sent them to me initially at the beginning of this year. There was much haste in his approach, and he insisted on keeping his identity anonymous. He also told me a story of how the VR marker was allegedly taken from a street in a particular area, but this story changed when I probed him for further details.

The VR marker in the courtyard of house called Newwieha

I sought to do my independent verifications, and that is when I found out that in the Land Registry’s title of ownership, as already pointed out, Newwieha and Ferrieha is owned by the Refalos and the Cauchis. That led to further research and the source, who had promised me “exclusivity”, got impatient or doubtful and took the pictures to another media outlet, which published a story shortly afterwards.  

The VR marker has been in the courtyard for some time. It is visible, for example, in a drone video published at the end of 2018 to promote Ferrieha farmhouse rentals for tourists.

VR marker visible in promotional video published in December of 2018 - click to enlarge

The Refalos and the Cauchis have been partners or associates in property business for many years. Over the years they have jointly purchased and sold various properties. Among these is a strikingly good deal they made in 2004 when they bought a built property for Maltese liri 170,000 (which converts to €396,000 in euros) and sold it – a month later – for Maltese liri 250,000 (€582,000). (The Cauchis also carry out other property developments independently.)

Maryanne Cauchi also appeared on the development application for a seven-storey seafront block of flats in Xlendi. Earlier this week, this website revealed that the Refalos also own a part of that building, as does the mother of PN MP Alex Borg. In that case, Refalo told this website in response to this website's questions that he had "erroneously" not included two flats he owns in the Xlendi block in the declaration of assets. 

VR marker mounted on a wall in a street in Gozo to mark State land (Copyright: Victor Paul Borg)

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