Costa del Sol owners bitten by Tajik con artist promising millions for hotel project

Restaurant owners seeking €50 million in bank finance to build hotel ended up being strung along by con artist and her associates

The hotel at Għadira Bay that Anthony Curmi wanted to develop instead of the Costa del Sol restaurant.
The hotel at Għadira Bay that Anthony Curmi wanted to develop instead of the Costa del Sol restaurant.

A Maltese family of restaurateurs seeking millions in bank finance are attempting to claim hundreds of thousands they paid out to a Tajik con-artist known to the local police, and her associates.  

The details emerge from a case filed in 2018 by the company Costa del Sol Ltd, against Eva Aydelman and Roksann Aydelman, and her advisors Raymond Pelicano, Johan Baldacchino Romano and lawyer Sarah Sultana.  

An extensive list of prospected damages were displayed in court, including €280,000 in legal services paid to the law firm of justice minister Jonathan Attard, which was formerly involved at a later stage in assisting Anthony Curmi’s Costa del Sol on various criminal and civil aspects of the company’s troubles.  

Yet more hundreds of thousands were paid to Aydelman for her travel and accommodation expenses to and from Hong Kong and Paris, allegedly to obtain bank financing for Curmi’s Costa del Sol.  

In his 2018 sworn application, Anthony Curmi, who owned the Costa del Sol restaurant in Mellieha, told the court that the company had engaged architects and submitted planning applications with the aim of building a 5-star hotel on the site, but had encountered difficulties in securing financing.  

Curmi said he had bumped into Pellicano one day and had ended up discussing the hotel project and its money problems. He claims Pelicano had offered to introduce Curmi to other intermediaries who could help him obtain a €50 million loan for the project.  

The intermediaries, Johann Baldacchino Romano and lawyer Sarah Sultana had met Curmi and explained that financing could be obtained through another intermediary – a certain Eva Aydelman, adding that they had successfully provided similar services in the past.  

Con-artist history  

57-year-old Aydelman, from Tajikistan, is a con-artist also known as Eva Vaiserfirer-Eidelman, and at one time used the name ‘Lady Geraldine Travers’.  

She had been jailed in the UK in November 2003 for mortgage fraud and illegal immigration. She has also been reported to have passed herself off as an Israeli businesswoman.  

Aydelman is believed to have acquired the Travers alias by stealing the identity of an Irish child who died in infancy. Her Linkedin page indicates she currently lives in Panama.  

Her husband, Simon Aydelman, was also facing trial in Malta in 2015 for trying to kill her last April at their home in San Gwann. The bullet missed her but lodged in the façade of a house across the street. Simon Aydelman was then kept at Mount Carmel Psychiatric Hospital, in the forensic ward, for treatment.  

Four years earlier, in 2011, Simon Aydelman had already been charged with shooting in during an argument at a football club in Naxxar. He had also threatened to shoot the police officers who arrived on the scene.  

Meeting with Aydelman  

A meeting was held with Aydelman, on the premise that she had the ability and capability to get sufficient financing for the project to go ahead.

Curmi was told by the defendants that in order for this financing agreement to succeed, Costa del Sol had to appoint Pellicano as project manager, Baldacchino Romano as business consultant and Sultana as legal representative, so that they would be able to assist the company in this exercise together with Aydelman.  

This was requested on the premise that they had already done similar work together and it was stressed that Aydelman would only trust them as consultants, making their appointment essential to the project.  

Aydelman was to indicate which bank would allegedly provide the loan facility, but the defendants had also emphasised that there was to be no direct contact between Costa del Sol and the bank providing the loan.  

Communication could only take place through them as intermediaries, or the financing agreement would be put at risk, Curmi was told.  

Costa del Sol said it had paid around €400,000 to the defendants directly or through third parties indicated by them, between 2014 and 2015.

This amount represented a deposit for Aydelman’s services and reimbursement for alleged costs and ancillary services related to the obtaining of the loan.  

These payments were to cover the purchase of air tickets and hotel stays – which the defendants insisted had to be business class and five star respectively – as well as feasibility studies, marketing plans, the setting up of a foreign website specifically for the granting of the loan, establishing of an office in Hong Kong, insurance as well as daily allowances for the defendants’ alleged trips to Hong Kong to hold meetings with banks.  

To afford this, the company had needed to borrow money from third parties, securing these loans with guarantees provided by relatives of the company’s directors and shareholders.  

Aydelman, Pelicano, Baldacchino Romano and Sultana had informed Costa del Sol that the banks had granted the loan facility, as long as the requested payments were made to the four defendants.  

Curmi’s company had paid up. But the promised loan never arrived, with the defendants stringing the plaintiff along for months by giving false hope that the funds would soon be received, continuously fabricating fictitious administrative obstacles which were solely intended to gain more time, whilst convincing Costa del Sol that the money really existed.  

In its court application, Costa del Sol claimed that the defendants would regularly threaten the company that halting the application process would result in it losing all the money it had paid so far, as well as the opportunity to obtain the necessary loan.  

“After many attempts and lots of threats from the defendants, against their instructions, eventually the plaintiff company succeeded in establishing contact with the foreign bank which allegedly was supposed to provide the financial facility, and discovered that the bank… had never received any request from the defendants for the loan facility in question.”  

The experts appointed by the company had always insisted that the financing of the project had been approved and that the money was not arriving due to technical problems which would change from one week to the other.”  

The company claimed that those same experts which it had appointed to safeguard its interests had also been acting in the interests of Eva Aydelman, to the extent that they would also uphold and corroborate every obstacle raised by her.  

The company said it had eventually been forced to sell off the land it owned to satisfy its creditors, but had also gathered enough evidence of this mise en scene by the defendants, as well as their negligence, recklessness and professional shortcomings.  

The 2018 sworn application was signed by lawyers Charlon Gouder and Joseph Gerada. Lawyer Jonathan Attard, today Minister for Justice, was also listed as joint counsel, although his signature was missing from the court application. The law firm no longer represents Curmi.  

A criminal complaint was also filed in December 2016, requesting the Commissioner of Police to investigate and take action against the defendants, but only Aydelman was ever arraigned. She later absconded whilst on bail.