Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia has again made headlines over the past few days after reports emerged that he has been investigated by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) over a Jersey bank account allegedly linked to Delia in the early 2000s, suspected of being used for money laundering activities.
The Sunday Times of Malta reported how the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU), in a March 2018 report, concluded there was enough information to suspect Delia used the Jersey account for money laundering purposes. Delia has maintained his innocence ever since this story first emerged by the now-murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
When the newspaper sent questions to Delia, he pre-empted the story by holding a press conference where he asked the Police Commissioner to investigate forged documents. He claimed documents containing his forged signatures were used to effect “financial transactions”.
Delia also asked the Police Commissioner to investigate whether the forged documents, which he says came to his attention around the same time The Sunday Times of Malta sent questions on the FIAU probe, had anything to do with the alleged FIAU report linking him to money laundering activities.
Delia today announced that a magisterial inquiry into the forged documents is underway, with a magistrate already having been assigned.
What is this alleged FIAU report all about?
The Sunday Times of Malta reported on a tip-off received by the FIAU back in 2017, indicating that a Barclays account in Jersey was owned by Delia, and this could have been associated with a Soho prostitution racket as well as money laundering.
This prompted the FIAU to reportedly launch an in-depth investigation, ultimately concluding that Delia’s account was opened in 2001 and closed in 2004.
The Times says the FIAU report found that around £346,000 was deposited into the Barclays Jersey account via various direct cash and cheque payments from within London, mostly coming from the Barclays Edgware Road branch.
Caruana Galizia had reported extensively on Delia’s alleged Jersey account, which he from the outset claimed he could not recall, saying that the reports relate to activities when he was a lawyer some 15 years ago.
And what does it conclude?
The Times says that FIAU investigators believe two Maltese individuals, Emanuel and Eve Bajada, had been depositing money into Delia’s Barclays Jersey account for the benefit of two companies: Healey Properties Ltd and AAS Freight Services Ltd. It is believed that Emanuel and Eve entered into a dispute over the money deposited, and that the two companies receiving the deposits via the Jersey account were there relatives, Eucharist and Mary Bajada.
One of the men depositing money into the Barclays Jersey account, Emanuel Bajada, together with his son Victor Bajada, were in 2005 arraigned in court of human trafficking and running a brothel in Malta. Emmanuel pleaded guilty to the charges.
The Times went on to report that account statements made available to the FIAU confirmed that Emanuel and Eve Bajada had indeed deposited funds into Delia’s Barclays account in Jersey. The inconsistent value of the deposits, ranging from £400 to £16,000 is what tipped off the FIAU into believing the money did not come from rent.
It was alleged that the proceeds of prostitution coming from one of the flats owned by Healey Properties Ltd, was then deposited into the Barclays Jersey Account for the benefit of the same Healey Properties, and was then laundered out.
It is now being reported that police investigations into what the FIAU found have stalled, in part due to the difficulty in getting information from highly secretive jurisdictions.
How does this tie into Delia’s claims of a forged signature used to effect ‘financial transactions’?
Soon after The Times sent questions to Delia about police investigations being at a standstill based on the FIAU report linking Delia’s account with money laundering, the PN leader called a press conference.
Delia claimed that around the same time he received questions from The Sunday Times of Malta, he was also made aware of leaked documents containing forged signatures which had been used to make ‘financial transactions’. He said these documents related to alleged activity by him around 15 years ago, the same time period in which he is being accused of allowing his Barclays account to be used for money laundering purposes.
Delia wrote to Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar, asking if he did indeed have a copy of the FIAU report in question, and to investigate any ties between the falsified documents which he enclosed and the FIAU report being reported connecting Delia to money laundering. Delia has maintained his innocence from the start.
Why is Delia questioning the timing of questions being sent to him?
Delia, in his Sunday speech while addressing a political activity in Mellieha, questioned the timing of leaks to the press showing the FIAU confirmed there was enough to link the Jersey account to money laundering activities.
He outlined how the PN has been accusing the government of hijacking the country’s institutions. He said this, together with pressure from the Venice Commission and other members prompted Justice Minister Owen Bonnici to announce the Attorney General will have his powers separated. Currently the AG acts as the chief prosecutor – responsible for prosecuting members of government too, the government’s legal counsel as well as chairman of the FIAU.
Delia stressed how hours after Minister Bonnici announced the separation of powers within the AG, a leak was received by the Times by the FIAU on the report in question.
What is Delia doing about all this?
After having requested that the Police Commissioner investigate the forged signatures, Delia announced a magisterial inquiry is now underway with a magistrate already having been appointed.
Interestingly, during Prime Minister’s Sunday speech, Joseph Muscat urged Delia to seek out a magisterial inquiry to get to the truth, saying he will not be drawn into speculating on the veracity of the claims.
Muscat also spoke about how his family had to endure two years of hardship after the “lies” spread by the PN and its supporters, linking Muscat and his family to a Panama account. An inquiry exonerated him of such links.
One of Delia’s main bones of contention is that if there really was an FIAU report with the conclusions as quoted by the Times, why have the police failed to call him in for any explanation or clarification? It is being reported that the police investigations have stalled due to the difficulty of getting information from secretive jurisdictions.
What happens next?
As with almost every political scandal in Malta, this is now under a magisterial inquiry, which means any questions are likely to be dismissed with the line: “We cannot comment while a magisterial inquiry is underway”. However, with Delia’s first electoral test around the corner, the question remains how this issue will impact the Nationalist Party’s performance at the polls.