Sliema Wanderers FC players went unpaid for three months as the club’s new sponsors, the company behind a sensational €500,000 donation pledge to Id-Dar tal-Providenza, struggles to shift funds to Malta.

The club’s president Jeffrey Farrugia confirmed to Times of Malta that the players were finally paid just before Christmas. Cheques were issued to the players by Sixt, a car rental company that sponsors the club.

Catco Group were officially announced as sponsors by Sliema in October. An account has now been set up in Hong Kong to process the payments from Catco to Sliema Wanderers which will be used to pay the players.

Speaking to Times of Malta, Catco chairman Fisal Abdullah Alokla said the issue behind transferring the funds to a Maltese bank for players’ wages was technical and not related to the “cleanliness of the money”.

He clarified that the group he chairs is domiciled in China, with a branch in Tunisia.

Farrugia, too, assured that the club had done its due diligence on the company before entering into a five-year sponsorship deal, which has seen Alokla being appointed chairman of the club.

The company was thrust into the limelight last weekend when former opposition leader Adrian Delia presented a €500,000 donation pledge to Id-Dar tal-Providenza on its behalf.

I thought that Delia is the head of this Dar tal-Providenza

The home for persons with disability later issued a statement saying it would be carrying out due diligence checks on the source of the funds.

Questioned about the link to Delia, Alokla said he would never had involved him had he known about his political links.

“I thought that Adrian Delia is the head of this Dar tal-Providenza, and I did not know that he was heading the opposition, and if I knew this thing, I would not have allowed it from the beginning,” he said.

Alokla supplied Times of Malta with a letter addressed to Id-Dar tal-Providenza confirming the €500,000 pledge. While the letter contained the charity’s address and telephone number, it was addressed to Delia rather than Fr Martin Micallef, who runs the home.

“Our group will also allocate an annual support amount for Id-Dar tal-Providenza and we have a strategy for future cooperation by establishing care centres under your direct supervision,” an excerpt from the letter reads.

When the donation was announced last Friday, the former opposition leader said it was the Sliema Wanderers FC president who had put him in contact with Catco Group.

Delia is understood to be giving legal advice to the group as it seeks to gain a foothold in Malta.

It seems the group is eyeing the former Flower Power site in Ta’ Qali for a tourism project.

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