The lawyer of PN leadership candidate Adrian Delia has revealed he was a freemason for around three years, between 2009 and 2011, but was kicked out after he wanted it to reform its secrecy rules.
“I used to be a freemason but I was kicked out because I disagreed with their operations and because I wanted the two Grand Lodges to merge,” Arthur Azzopardi said when asked by Lovin Malta. “They were normal meetings though, everyone wearing jackets and ties, and I laugh when I read all these conspiracy theories about freemasonry online. It’s just not on, there’s nothing morbid about the meetings.”
He used to work at the law firm of Labour MP and former home affairs minister Manuel Mallia. Indeed, he was the lawyer Mallia’s driver Paul Sheehan called up three years ago to help him give a police statement about the notorious shooting incident that eventually led to Mallia’s sacking as minister.
He said he had told Mallia he was a mason, and while the former minister “wasn’t happy about it”, he had told him he wouldn’t have a problem so long as it doesn’t impact his professional life.
For the past two years, he has been running his own law firm and is currently representing Delia in five libel suits the PN leader candidate had filed against journalist-blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia over reports accusing him of laundering money from a Soho prostitution ring.
Azzopardi sent Lovin Malta a copy of his expulsion letter, dated 23 February 2011 and signed by Tony Cilia Pisani, the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Malta.
“This is to certify that you have been struck off the Masonic Register as of 23rd February 2011,” the letter reads. “The main reasons for the termination of our affiliation were due to the diverse opinions and reasoning about the implementation of certain decisions taken by the Grand Council.”
Azzopardi didn’t say which lodge he was a part of, although the expulsion letter shows he was part of the Grand Lodge of Malta, a splinter Grand Lodge which broke away from the Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta in 2009. One of the co-founders of the Grand Lodge was David Gatt, a policeman turned lawyer who was recently cleared of involvement in a string of armed robberies, including a €1 million heist from the HSBC branch in Balzan back in 2007.
Azzopardi said he joined freemasonry in 2009, which means he was one of the first members of Gatt’s breakaway lodge. A spokesperson for the Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta told MaltaToday in 2010 the new lodge was irregular and its members had been expelled from the SGLOM.
Azzopardi said he had told Delia about his freemasonry past, but the PN leader hopeful had no problem with it because he is no longer a member. As far as he knows, Delia was never a freemason himself.
Azzopardi was a freemason for around three years, between 2009 and 2011. During that period, he said he saw nothing untoward or slightly satanic during the meetings, and indeed many members – including himself – were practicing Roman Catholics.
“We often received requests for medical assistance from sick people, we used to organise meals in which everyone but the waiters would collect funds for Razzett tal-Hbiberija or for a man who needed a wheelchair….we used to drink a lot of wine.”
He said he never saw politicians, magistrates or judges at the meetings, but admitted to seeing several businessmen there. The group meetings were small – no more than 15 people would attend a meeting, all of whom were men.
Indeed, this ban on women members was one of the gripes Azzopardi had with the masonry leadership that eventually saw him expelled from the group.
“Maltese freemasonry disallows women from joining them. It’s a ridiculous rule. Are we still living in medieval times?”
Another of his grievances was the masonry’s refusal to go public about its work and members.
“I had told my friends and family about my involvement in freemasonry,” he said. “I don’t agree it should be a secret society. In Malta, everyone knows where the meetings take place – one of which is in a building that is partially rented from the government.”
“Freemasons aren’t doing anything wrong, so why should they remain mysterious? I find it funny to hear it described as a secret society because it isn’t secret, and indeed you can find footage of masonic ceremonies on Youtube these days, However, in Malta there’s still a stigma attached to freemasonry.”
“Freemasons aren’t doing anything wrong, so why should they remain mysterious?”
Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi, ex-freemason
Azzopardi said he never witnessed freemasons trying to influence politicians or establish firm links with people in power, and said he is personally not interested in getting involved in politics. Indeed, he had turned down the Nationalist Party’s requests to contest the general elections on its ticket in 2008 and 2017.
However, he admitted a code of ‘brotherhood’ exists amongst freemasons.
“Freemasons promise to help each other out when the need arises, so long as it doesn’t involve personal sacrifice or breaking the law,” he said. “For example, a couple of clients had showed me they were freemasons and instead of charging them €100, I would charge them €50.”
Freemasonry has become a theme of the PN leadership election campaign, after Karol Aquilina, president of the PN’s administrative council, wrote a coy Facebook post saying “freemasonry is the worst thing that could happen to a political party”.
He denied he was referring to anyone in particular, although many took it as a dig at Adrian Delia. Indeed, Delia accused Aquilina of being “ridiculous” and urged him to substantiate his claims.
Later on, Church media outlet Newsbook published a photo of Delia posing in a group photo which included two people who used to canvass for PN deputy leader Mario de Marco but were suspended by the PN after they were outed as freemasons. Masonry is forbidden by the PN’s statute, as it is classified as an organisation which goes against the party’s principles.
Asked about whether the PN should take a more lenient position on freemasonry, Azzopardi said the party has a right to make its own rules but his experience showed him there was no contrast between the principles of the PN and those of freemasonry.
Lovin Malta earlier sent identical questions to both Delia and PN leadership rival Chris Said, asking them what action they would take if they found out a person in their campaign team is a freemason.
“If I find out there is a freemason within my campaign team, I would fire him/her on the spot,” Said said.
Delia’s response was more diplomatic in tone but identical in substance: “The party statute does not permit its members to engage in freemasonary. I subscribe to the statute.”