Delia called in as court witness in Arcidiacono claim over exorbitant legal fees

Adrian Delia denied anything untoward about a payment received by his law firm from former client Boris Arcidiacono in a case filed against HSBC

Adrian Delia
Adrian Delia

Former PN leader Adrian Delia has denied there being anything untoward about a payment received by his law firm from former client Boris Arcidiacono, whom he recalled going out with for a celebratory champagne lunch after signing a bank agreement on his loans.

Delia took the stand for the second time in the case filed by his former client, earlier this week on Wednesday.

Delia has been called in as a witness to the case filed by Boris Arcidiacono, who accuses HSBC of allowing Delia to claim a €86,210 fee from his loan facility with HSBC. Arcidiacono alleges this was “in collusion” with the bank. Arcidiacono has sued the bank over the payment, which he claims was made without his consent.

In June 2009, Arcidiacono took a loan of around €800,000 from HSBC, the purpose of which was to settle outstanding debts and matters concerning property disputes with third parties. Delia had been his lawyer in the negotiations and had asked for a ‘success fee’ of €120,000 should Arcidiacono get the loan.

But Arcidiacono refused to pay up and subsequently accused Delia of threatening to actively sabotage his case.

Arcidiacono’s lawyer, Cedric Mifsud, asked Delia about the timeline of events between 2007 and 2009. Reference was made to a sanction letter dated 24 February 2009, which indicates that the bank had approved the loan of €800,000.

“There was a retainer agreement between a firm I worked with [and the plaintiff],” Delia told Mr. Justice Francesco Depasquale. “This further payment came after a retainer agreement had terminated. After the retainer ended, there was a volume of work needed by Boris Arcidiacono, involving meetings, advice… it was extensive. As a matter of fact, the amount was agreed before the services rendered. There were invoices. It is all documented, including by emails.”

There were a number of months where the retainer was paid regularly. Some months later, further invoices were issued.

But pressed by lawyer Cedric Mifsud, Delia could not remember whether the retainer agreement was still in place when the sanction letter was issued to his client.

Mifsud referred to a 2008 letter from Delia’s then firm Aequitas Legal, referring to the retainer, and the sanction letter issued in February 2009. “When the sanction letter was issued was it covered by the retainer agreement?” asked Mifsud, given that the retainer period ran until April 2009.

“What I can say for certain is that never in 27 years did we charge twice for the same thing,” Delia replied. “Was there something covered by a retainer and a lump sum payment? No, never… As a matter of fact, my fees were not based on the sanction letter. So if Arcidiacono collected the majority of the fees from the bank, it is no concern of mine.”

Answering a question from the judge, he said the cheque for €86,000 was written on the day of the agreement with the bank. Receipts were issued 25 days after the contract was signed.

“We gave Arcidiacono intensive service for a number of months before… after the signing, we took him out for a champagne lunch with his daughter.”

The success fee of €86,000 was 10.77% of the loan, lawyer Cedric Mifsud pointed out, asking how he had reached that amount. Delia said the amount was prearranged with the client. “We had a retainer for months. At a point in time, we changed the arrangement to one with an amount.”

But he said could not recall what was said during the negotiations, due to the passage of time, admitting not having given the bank a document to justify the payment of the fee. “The amount was paid in front of the client; he paid the amount and the receipts were issued. After months of hard work by the whole office, it was a landmark that we reached successfully.”

Mifsud suggested that the cheque was made out to Delia and deposited in Delia’s personal clients account. “There was nothing wrong with that,” Delia said.

Lawyers Cedric Mifsud and Mario Camilleri appeared for Boris Arcidiacono. Lawyer Louis Cassar Pullicino represented HSBC. Lawyer Vincent Galea assisted Adrian Delia.