Barely two years into his tenure as Nationalist Party leader, Adrian Delia has faced a multitude of accusations ranging from money-laundering to domestic violence claims, not to mention a historic drubbing at the polls.
His turbulent tenure culminated on Saturday in a confidence vote held within the PN’s general council.
Soho saga - August 2017
Presenting himself as a fresh face pitched against the PN’s establishment, Dr Delia’s nascent campaign for the PN’s top post was immediately faced with accusations that he facilitated a Soho-based prostitution racket.
It was journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia who provided an account about Dr Delia’s alleged role as a money-mover for the racket between 2001 and 2004.
The account sparked a money-laundering investigation by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit.
Just weeks before the vote that confirmed him as PN leader, the party’s ethics committee took a deeper dive into the accusations.
Calls by the party’s administrative council, and his predecessor Simon Busuttil, to pull out of the leadership race were ignored.
Dr Delia has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and insists his involvement was limited to that of a legal advisor and representative for other Maltese nationals involved.
Money matters - September 2017
In parallel with the Soho story, Dr Delia faced serious questions about his finances.
Again, Daphne Caruana Galizia revealed how Dr Delia, together with his wife and business partners, were facing increasing pressure by HSBC to keep up repayments on a multi-million euro loan for a Gozo property venture.
The budding PN leader was revealed to be jointly responsible for a €7.2 million loan taken out by Mġarr Developments Ltd, a company that developed apartments on prime land overlooking the Mġarr harbour.
Pressure to come clean about his finances led Dr Delia to publish a statement of affairs which also revealed home loan, credit card and tax debts of over €900,000.
This raised questions, which continue till this very day, about how Dr Delia would keep up with these debts on an annual salary as Opposition leader of €40,000.
Dr Delia has pointed towards the sale of his business shares as another source of additional income.
The statement of affairs did not show any positive cash balances in the bank. Dr Delia put this down to a lack of savings in any local or foreign banks.
Daphne’s death - October 2017
Dr Delia’s bitter engagement with Daphne Caruana Galizia culminated in a number of lawsuits.
Her assassination one month into Dr Delia’s term as PN leader left many within the party questioning whether he was the right man to spearhead the Opposition’s demands for justice.
Despite strong declarations about the “political killing”, Dr Delia struggled to present himself as a credible voice for justice.
PN MPs were reportedly uncomfortable being seen at vigils with Dr Delia after his blunt dismissal of the journalist’s work and attacks on her character.
His attempt at an apology following her death was met with a blunt response from her family to steer away.
Hostility between Dr Delia and those continuing the calls for justice have continued throughout his tenure as Opposition leader.
Accusations of xenophobia - September 2018
Not all the controversies Dr Delia has found himself in have been about his personal life.
Last year, a group of NGOs slammed Dr Delia’s comments about foreign workers, describing them as “abhorrent” and that they were intended to generate hatred, discrimination and violence.
The PN leader had controversially warned about the influx of foreigners into Malta, but rejected claims that he was driven by racial or xenophobic motives.
A number of MPs privately admitted to being uncomfortable with his type of discourse.
Domestic drama - December 2018/January 2019
The holiday season would prove to be a testing time for Dr Delia.
His wife Nickie Vella Fremaux claimed sensationally in court filings that her husband had been abusive to their children.
The claims reignited the rumblings of rebellion within the PN’s parliamentary group, yet no MP was willing to take on Dr Delia prior to the European Parliament elections in May.
The momentum to oust Dr Delia appeared to fizzle out at the end of January, as the PN’s executive committee dismissed the “coordinated and malicious attacks” against the party leader.
Police probe - December 2018
News about the police’s interest in Dr Delia’s past financial dealings was first broken by The Sunday Times of Malta ahead of the Christmas season.
Police sources had confirmed that the London-based prostitution racket, and Dr Delia’s involvement, were part of an ongoing money-laundering investigation.
A report by the FIAU had recommended criminal investigation into the possible laundering of funds for the Maltese owners of two Soho brothels.
The revelations led the Democratic Party, the PN’s former coalition partners, to demand Dr Delia’s suspension from the role of Opposition leader.
Election evisceration - May 2019
A historic drubbing at the European parliament and local election polls once again put the PN leader up against the ropes.
The PN’s leadership deflected much of the blame for the defeat, instead pointing their fingers at the rebel MPs and the serious problems the party inherited in 2017.
Despite obvious discontent by several senior MPs, none of them were willing to openly call for Dr Delia’s head.
Several of the party’s branches, including its youth wing, broke ranks following the majority of the PN’s sectional committees expressing unanimous trust in Dr Delia.
As the infighting dragged on throughout the summer, former PN candidate Ivan Bartolo spearheaded an initiative to force a vote on Dr Delia’s leadership in the general council. Dr Delia survived that vote, and appears ready to battle on.