PN to discuss candidature after Delia confirms he held Jersey account for London Soho ‘brothel’ rent on behalf of Maltese clients
With one week to go before the Nationalist Party’s General Council starts a first round of voting for a new PN leader, Adrian Delia’s bid for the leadership appears to have been dealt a massive blow by allegations of an offshore bank account.
The allegations, first published by Malta Independent columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia, claim that Delia used a Barclays International account in Jersey, to process the payments of rents for a Soho, London property that was used for prostitution, on behalf of a Maltese associate to a company registered in the Marshall Islands.
The story in a nutshell
- Adrian Delia would have used a Barclays International account in Jersey to recieve the rent of 52 Greek Street, paid to him by Emanuel Bajada, to be forwarded on to Bajada’s brother Eucharist, the owner of the property, or to two UK companies
- Delia already has a business relationship with Eucharist Bajada and his son, Eucharist jnr, in Malta
- Emanuel Bajada was convicted of living off prostitution earnings in 2010
- Delia’s Jersey account was said to have recieved £20,000 every month in rent for the Soho house, which Emanuel Bajada’s lawyers in 2003 claimed were not forwarded to the two UK companies.
- After 2004, the house was owned by Mark Barbara, an aide to minister Chris Cardona, who as lawyer had defended Emanuel Bajada on prostitution charges in 2005; and now it is owned by a BVI-registered company called Maybole
At first denied categorically by Delia, a lawyer and political newcomer widely believed to be the favourite among PN members, yesterday he finally acknowledged that the owner of the property on Greek Street, was his client.
The seriousness of the allegations prompted a PN local councillor, Charlot Cassar, to request that the PN’s administrative council discuss the future of Delia’s candidature. The request was accepted, with the administrative council deciding to meet on Monday to discuss the necessary steps to be taken in Delia’s regard according to the party’s statute.
Cassar said councillors voting in the leadership contest “had a right to know the facts about the four candidates before making their decision”.
The PN statement was issued half-way through a press conference called by Delia at 4:30pm yesterday, in which he reiterated that his involvement in the Greek Street rental payments was merely that of a lawyer offering professional services to a client – in this case, the landlord of the property in question. He denied ever having benefitted from the rent of the property in question, or having received any of the proceeds from prostitution.
Owner of an offshore account
On Wednesday, Caruana Galizia, writing in her blog, claimed that Delia was the owner of an account at a bank in Jersey – an offshore jurisdiction – which was used to process the funds from prostitution at 52 Greek Street in London.
The account, she claimed, was used by the apartment’s tenant for depositing the proceeds from what was effectively a brothel, with the intention of eventually transferring them to accounts owned by companies in the Marshall Islands – of which the property’s landlord was the ultimate beneficial owner.
She published a scanned copy of a letter sent to Delia by a legal firm in the UK on behalf of the apartment’s tenant, in which the tenant claimed that the apartment’s landlord had not received the rent paid by the tenant over a period of three to four years, at a rate of £20,000 a month.
Delia denied the allegations and filed a libel suit on Thursday morning after which he told journalists that he did not have any personal funds held abroad, while failing to rule out holding funds for clients.
Despite this, when contacted by MaltaToday on Friday, he said that he could not remember whether or not he had ever held offshore accounts on behalf of any clients and that given his “line of work”, he could not make “blanket statements” in this regard.
When it was pointed out that it shouldn’t be too difficult to remember whether or not he had ever held such an account for a client, Delia again stressed he was being careful since he did not wish to say he “didn’t do something 15 years ago which would have actually been done in good faith”.
I can definitely exclude ever doing something illegal. I can exclude that I was ever involved in prostitution, I can exclude that I ever channelled funds knowingly from anything illegal,” he said.
Delia also denied having any recollection of the letter – dated 2003 – published by Caruana Galizia which was addressed to him by UK lawyers representing the apartment’s tenant. “Had I received something that worried me, I would have remembered at the time,” he said.
“The simple fact that I can’t confirm it either way means that it never worried me, otherwise I would have continued to think about it.”
While it is true that, as stated by Delia himself, it is relatively normal for lawyers to hold accounts on behalf of their clients, lawyers are obliged to carry out the necessary due diligence on their client and to ensure that any funds have been declared with the respective authorities.
He also insisted with this newspaper that “from the way in which the story is developing”, it appeared it wasn’t the landowner that “was doing something wrong” but rather it was the tenant. As such, he said that any due diligence he would have carried out on his client would not have flagged any issues.
“If I either advised or was a director, I was appearing for the landlord,” he said, adding that what could be said with certainty was that if he had known that “this was something related to prostitution and drugs” he wouldn’t have done it.
He also stressed that with any account held in his name, he would have abided by any legal responsibilities, “whatever they might have been in that particular jurisdiction”.
The plot thickens
Late on Friday, Caruana Galizia published land registry documents from the UK showing the property in question, a two-storey building at 52, Greek Street, London, belonging to Mark Barbara, an aide to economy minister Chris Cardona.
The published documents, dated 19 April, 2004, show the property as having been purchased by Barbara in March of the same year.
When accessed by MaltaToday yesterday, the UK land registry showed the property belonging to Maybole Development Limited – a British Virgin Islands company in the care of Wilson Barca LLP – as of November 2004.
As Delia was holding his press conference yesterday, in yet another post, Caruana Galizia alleged that Emanuel, aka Lolly, Bajada acted as the property’s tenant, and that the landlord was Bajada’s own brother – Eucharist Bajada. Delia’s business relationship with Eucharist Bajada snr. and his son Eucharist jnr. was already reported on by MaltaToday.
At one point, lawyers acting for Emanuel Bajada wrote to Delia in December 2003, bringing to his notice that some £20,000 in monthly rent that was allegedly paid to him for “three to four years” had not been passed on to the companies that ostensibly owned the property – Healey Properties and AAS Freight Services.
While Eucharist Bajada’s ownership of either the property or the companies could not be confirmed, the upshot of the allegations is that Emanuel Bajada would collect the ‘rent’ for Greek Street, pass it on to Adrian Delia through his Jersey account, who would then be instructed to pass on the money to the property owner, possibly Eucharist Bajada or the two companies. That ‘rent’ was, allegedly, from illicit activities such as prostitution.
Adding to the suspicion of prostitution, was the fact that Emanuel Bajada himself was in 2005 charged with living off the earnings of prostitution in Malta, together with his son Victor, and of having organised a brothel at two of his properties, Adam’s Guesthouse in St Julian’s, and Pace’s Guesthouse in Sliema. His defence counsel at the time happened to be Chris Cardona – the future Labour minister.
During his press conference yesterday, Delia said that his client – the property owner – had rented out the house to a tenant, whose identity he did not confirm but said was also Maltese, who in turn sub-let the place. However, when it turned out that the place was being used for “illicit purposes” – prostitution – Delia said he took legal action against the tenants.
“I roped in British lawyers to take up my client’s case against one of the tenants,” Delia said, adding that he was bound by confidentiality and could not elaborate further.
Delia also declared he had not been party to any money laundering, and that he was only rendering legal services.
For the question remains, if Greek Street was truly owned by Eucharist Bajada – with whom Delia happens to be involved in Patience Developments Ltd, albeit as a nominal 1% shareholder – why was Delia collecting rental money through an offshore bank account from Bajada’s brother Emanuel.
“My client took out an insurance policy on the building which in itself shows that the property was never intentioned for illicit activities,” Delia said.
Asked whether he felt he would reconsider his leadership bid in light of the controversy, he again insisted he had done nothing wrong, had never lied, and did not have any political responsibility at the time he was representing his client.
“It is clear that somebody is using Daphne Caruana Galizia to undermine my leadership bid. This happened only after a huge wave of support for someone like me, who can promote a new way.”