In the epic poem ‘Aeneid’, the Roman poet Virgil retells the legend of the Trojan wars. The phrase “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” was his. It refers to a supposed act of virtue which holds a hidden threat. On the first day of the year, former Opposition Leader Adrian Delia hijacked the Dar tal-Providenza fundraiser. Shedding tears, he presented a €500,000 ‘gift’ to the cause.
The presenters and the audience erupted in cheers and claps. Unprecedented generosity. All thanks to Delia: “Bis-Saħħa tiegħek Dr Delia”. What a great man. As the smoke from the celebratory background fireworks slowly faded, the stark reality started to creep in.
First, the giant cheque that Delia presented was not really a cheque at all. There was no money. It had no value. Delia was there to announce a €500,000 pledge from a commercial company, Catco Group Capital Investment. Of course, nobody had ever heard of them. So Delia repeated the name loudly to make sure they received maximum publicity.
Who are Catco Group Capital Investment? What we know is that the group is chaired by Fisal Abdullah Alokla who was appointed chairman of Sliema Wanderers football club after the company became Sliema’s official sponsors in October 2020.
But there seems to be a little hitch. Sliema players had not been paid for three months – since the Catco deal. At the last minute before Christmas, Sixt, another of Sliema’s sponsors had to pitch in to tidy the players over the holiday period. Catco was having some minor difficulty shifting funds to Malta.
But don’t worry. Alokla reassures us the issue with transferring money is simply “technical” and “not related to cleanliness of money”. To put everybody’s mind at rest he set up an account in Hong Kong to allow money to be shifted. The group is domiciled in China, and only has a branch in Tunisia.
Sliema Wanderers FC reassured us – and their players – that due diligence had been performed on the company. They had just forgotten to check whether money was actually accessible – at least to pay their players.
So where does Adrian Delia come in? Nobody really knows. What are his links to the group? Delia himself stated, “I have no place or authority to speak on their behalf”. So why was he hogging the stage eclipsing the Dar tal-Providenza fundraiser?
According to Delia, he only was put in touch with Catco Group a few weeks earlier. By his own admission he has never met anybody from the ‘Tunisian’ group in person. His only communication with members of the group was through email. The Times of Malta reported that Delia was providing the group legal advice.
When the chairman of Catco, Alokla, was contacted, he confessed that he thought Delia was the Head of Dar tal-Providenza. He did not even know Delia had just been removed from Opposition leader. Emphatically, Alokla stated that had he known of Delia’s political involvement he would never have dealt with him.
If Alokla’s version of events is correct, it indicates two things: that Delia has deceived him and that Alokla is lazy. A quick internet search would take no effort at all and would quickly determine who Delia really is – or was. And who would trust Adrian Delia with €500,000? Anybody with that amount of money to dispense would surely afford competent staff to double check the credentials of anybody they are dealing with.
Even email communication with untrustworthy persons would be considered too high risk for those of ultra-high worth as Alokla claims to be. Which serious and professional commercial group would communicate via email with somebody they know nothing about – especially if half a million euro is involved?
Which professional commercial company would let its reputation be ruined by allowing a total amateur to present their generous charitable donation in front of a national audience? Which reputable group would let a charmless quack front its charm offensive to a nation?
The alternative explanation of course is that Alokla is lying and that Delia, the kind and generous soul, was taken in by a fraudster using Dar tal-Providenza for his own ulterior motives.
But Delia has put our mind at rest. “Obviously transactions of that size require vetting,” he declared. “Why are people speculating and inventing things before the source of the funds has even been verified?” he asked.
Actually, before verifying the source of the funds, you need to verify that there are any funds at all. Even if there were, Delia admits that he has not verified the source. And how could he if he has only been in touch with the group for a few weeks and only via email?
Delia is now claiming that he personally requested an enhanced due diligence exercise on the chairman of the group. He has not provided the name of the “top audit firm” he contracted to carry out the exercise – less so released the due diligence report. How much would such an audit from a top audit firm cost? How likely is it that Delia, who has no money in his bank account, paid for such an exercise conducted in record time out of his own funds?
What a bizarre spectacle. The former Leader of the Opposition fronts an unknown Chinese group with a Tunisian branch, wanting to transfer hundreds of thousands of euro of unknown provenance into a European Union State under the guise of charity – a group he has never met in person. “They’re donating to charity – they want to do something good” Delia rebuts.
If any proof were ever needed of Delia’s weird and wild judgement, this must surely be it.