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CM hits back over Victoria Keys criticism

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said last night that the Gibraltar Government had no choice but to negotiate directly with the consortium of Victoria Keys developers because the GSD had already given Coaling Island to some of the members of the consortium by direct allocation.

Mr Picardo was responding to a GSD statement in which the party criticised arrangements over the development and claimed that there are questions that the “Government are sweeping under the carpet”.

In hitting back yesterday Mr Picardo further claimed that part of the relevant site was also subject to a claim against the GSD Government by the owners of the Head Lease of Queensway Quay as a result of the GSD's transaction when developing the new Yacht Club.

“Despite Mr Azopardi's bluster, it was the GSD who were the ones who gave out these sites by direct allocation without tender,” he said in a statement.

“It is no use Mr Azopardi now seeking to pervert history as the record can speak for itself.”

Mr Picardo said the GSD had “tied the hands of future Governments of Gibraltar”.

He explained that, in the best interests of the taxpayer, he had to find a way to force people to come to the negotiating table.

“It should also be noted that the new partners in the development company were not brought in by the Government, but by the developers to whom the GSD had originally given the land.”

Mr Picardo said these people are all investors in other established Gibraltar developments, including in the MidTown development.

This, he said, was granted by the GSD by direct allocation and without tender.

“I had to undo the GSD's MidTown transaction in order to get back one third of the plot, and, as a result, we have been able to make major improvements to the area.”

“In line with our economic strategy, we have provided a coach park to bring tourists right into the centre of town, we have announced further beautification of the area by means of a stunning new park and we have reduced the height of the development’s main towers.”

“Every one of these initiatives is an improvement for our community.”

In terms of the Victoria Keys development, Mr Picardo said the financial returns for the Government are “probably the best ever agreed in our history and the GSLP/Liberals deserve the credit for that”.

Gibraltar’s taxpayers will not pay for the reclamation and nor do they carry the risk of carrying out the works, but they do get 50% of the land, for nothing, at the end of it, he added.

“This is a great deal for the taxpayer and it is the GSLP/Liberals who deserve the credit for that, something Mr Azopardi obviously does not like.”

“Additionally, we are lending the developers the money for them to carry out the reclamation and we are making a commercial rate of interest as a result.”

“Making something for everyone in our community, including the worse off, from the profit of the better off is a principle I am happy to be associated with,” Mr Picardo said.

“This is therefore probably the best return the Government of Gibraltar has ever made on any transaction.”

He added: “We, the GSLP/Liberal Government have driven a hard bargain, but I am proud of what we have achieved and additionally, we are able to use the land for good social causes.”

“Today, Mr Azopardi is left covered in GSD mud. He deserves that it should be directly allocated to him without tender, as his party did with the land in question.”

“Moreover, it would appear that Mr Azopardi is defending the GSD’s granting of land at Coaling Island, for nothing, to a GSD supporter who had previously sold to another developer for millions.
That is a scandal of the highest order.”

He added: “Mr Azopardi's law firm, Triay Stagnetto Neish, is representing that party and Mr Azopardi is clearly trying to use his precarious political position to further his firm's client's interests.”

“That is a clear, unequivocal and improper conflict of interests and one that Mr Azopardi has perversely failed to declare when making his statement.”

“I want the whole electorate to know the true details of the GSD’s continuing deception and of their barefaced effrontery in attacking the Government on this issue.”