London brothels and the Bajadas: The property deal that tarnished Adrian Delia

Adrian Delia handled the corporate affairs of a Maltese London property owner, whose offshore companies set him just far apart enough from the illegalities that took place inside these properties

Months before she succumbed to cancer in late November 2017, Eve Bajada spoke to the late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

She had an important cache of documents in her hand, implicating the aspiring PN leader Adrian Delia, an experienced litigation lawyer, in a legal feud over a tiny property portfolio in London, with a prostitution racket at its heart.

Eve Bajada was the wife of Emmanuel, aka Lolly, Bajada – a man who in 2006 had admitted to money laundering through brothels at Pace’s Guesthouse in Sliema and Adam’s Guesthouse in St Julian’s. For that crime he was given a two-year prison sentence suspended for four years, and fined €50,000. The two guesthouses were in operation for two months in 2005 before the police swooped down on them in May of that year. His defence lawyer at the time was Chris Cardona, then a Labour MP, now a minister and deputy leader of the Labour Party.

Eve Bajada had, ironically, already been the target of Caruana Galizia’s pen. At some point in time when a nascent internet culture was trolling Caruana Galizia over her anti-Labour poison pen blogs, Bajada would share links to a scurrilous ‘Daphne Is A Transsexual’ website. Caruana Galizia hit back at Bajada’s known connection to the Soho world of prostitution, and of course, her husband’s arrest in Malta. You will not find the posts, except on a Waybackmachine screengrab, because Caruana Galizia deleted them years later when Bajada came over to pass on the information on Delia.

It looked like a last act of defiance for Eve Bajada, as she entered her last months of life. Adrian Delia had been at the heart of the legal battle between Eve’s husband Lolly, and his brother Eucharist, the owner of various Soho properties. The properties had been targeted by the London Met Police in a prostitution bust called Operation Pabail in 2003, and Eucharist scrambled to have his ‘tenant’ Lolly, his own brother, relinquish the properties fast.

Lolly and Eve Bajada in a screengrab from a YouTube video
Lolly and Eve Bajada in a screengrab from a YouTube video

“It was a legal power game,” says Eucharist’s son Kris, who emphatically denies that his father, a property entrepreneur in his own right, was ever part of the Maltese underworld that once held sway in Soho, or that he had any direct implication in the prostitution racket revealed by Operation Pabail.

But Eucharist’s corporate handler, Adrian Delia – a one-time business partner of Kris, whom he knew since their university days – was plunged into scandal once the confidential legal papers were published in 2017 by Daphne Caruana Galizia and MaltaToday.

To this day, the Opposition leader is burdened with an investigation into his financial affairs by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, particularly on how he handled Bajada’s affairs. And in turn, Delia has tried hard to protect his name by claiming forgeries of his signatures intended at incriminating him.

The Soho property game

Kris Bajada, 50, was studying business at the University of Malta when he and law student Adrian Delia became friends. As fate would have it, Bajada married the sister of future PN leader Simon Busuttil, Delia’s predecessor and a reference point for antagonists of the present PN leader.

Kris Bajada, son of Eucharist Bajada, the owner of the London properties
Kris Bajada, son of Eucharist Bajada, the owner of the London properties

Bajada wants to make it clear that his father Eucharist, who used offshore companies to acquire his properties in London, was never part of the once-notorious Maltese-Soho underworld.

“My family has never had any part in that world. My father was in property and he saw a deal to be made when he saw that property. And he made it work for him, because by vesting ownership of those properties in offshore companies, when the rent is paid into an offshore bank account the owner is not liable for tax – everything was legal and above-board. And Adrian Delia knew it, because he saw the property and he set up the Barclays account to receive payments on the rent,” Kris Bajada told MaltaToday.

While Bajada insists that the property deal was unconnected to the prostitution racket that took place, the public documents available on the properties offer a more nuanced picture.

It was Lolly himself who approached his brother with the possibility that he acquire the London properties – 52 Greek Street in Soho, and the interconnected tenement of 16 Stanhope Row and 16 Market Mews in Mayfair. But it’s their previous ownership that gives the strongest hint about the origin, and use of these London properties.

In the Stanhope Row title, the property was at one point owned by Victor Micallef, aka ‘Bajzu’, a one-time member of the defunct Maltese syndicate run by clip-joint king ‘Big’ Frank Mifsud and Bernie Silver. Micallef had faced charges of kidnapping and beating a Maltese associate he suspected of having shopped the crime ring to the police.

18-stone gangster: Frank Mifsud smiles for the camera. In the 1970s  he was acquitted of having commissioned a hit on another gangster, but his Maltese Syndicate was slowly dismantled by the London Met
18-stone gangster: Frank Mifsud smiles for the camera. In the 1970s he was acquitted of having commissioned a hit on another gangster, but his Maltese Syndicate was slowly dismantled by the London Met

So, when in 1999, Eucharist Bajada acquired the properties through the offshore companies AAS Freight Services and Healey Properties, surely enough those properties came with their own chequered history. That it was his brother who presented him with the deal – only years later he would be running a brothel in Malta – is indicative of the link between these London properties and the criminal legacy of the Maltese Syndicate.

“It’s not true that my father was aware of prostitution,” Kris Bajada insists.

“Neither was my uncle Frank [Bajada], who owned a hotel in Sussex Gardens, connected to this world. They had nothing to do with the Maltese underworld in Soho at the time.

“My father was a property owner who saw a good deal in London. When Operation Pabail happened in 2003, he risked losing those properties so he wanted to force out his brother Lolly from the tenancy agreement they had.”

The houses in Soho and Mayfair were purchased through two offshore companies
The houses in Soho and Mayfair were purchased through two offshore companies

So started what Kris Bajada calls a “legal power game” to force Lolly Bajada to rescind his tenancy agreement on the houses Eucharist owned through AAS and another offshore company, Healey Properties. The director of these offshore companies was none other than Adrian Delia, charged by Bajada to handle legal and financial affairs, and collect the rent on these properties from Lolly Bajada.

The tax avoidance system employed a network of people: as director of the offshore company that owned the properties, Delia charged a London solicitor to act on his behalf on property exchanges and mortgage transactions; Lolly used a name-lender to act on his behalf as the legal tenant, a down-and-out chap called Martin Farrugia, since passed away. The rent on the Soho and Mayfair properties was set at £20,500 a month – according to an unsigned tenancy agreement from 2001 seen by MaltaToday.

Guilnara Gadzejeva and Olga Chukanova
Guilnara Gadzejeva and Olga Chukanova

But that was before the properties were struck by the London Met Police in July 2003, in a bust on a prostitution ring run by Gulnara Gadzijeva, who recruited women from Eastern Europe. The newspaper reports of the court proceedings are clear. “I think the owners of the flat are Maltese,” she had told the court. “The Maltese people do exist… but I probably don’t know their real names.”

She also claimed she would pay Eve Bajada £4,000 a month.

Things started to change at this point.

The legal battle

“My father risked losing the properties because of what had happened. The value of the property would have been decimated. So he engaged lawyers to force Lolly out of the tenancy agreement by creating a large bill of damages for what happened,” Kris Bajada says, again denying any connection to what was taking place in the houses.

“Neither Lolly nor Eve were ever charged in the affair, and Gadzjeva herself ran around a dozen other properties for the prostitution ring.

“I want to say the truth, even though Delia has been unjust with me over what he has said: neither my father or his brother, nor Delia himself, were ever implicated in this prostitution racket.”

The missing evidence at this point would be anything showing that Lolly and Eve Bajada were pocketing rents over and above what was expected on the properties, amounts that meant they were living off the immoral earnings of the prostitutes. But perhaps these are clues that have already been secured by the FIAU’s own investigation into the matter, which reportedly has established Delia’s Jersey account had received over £349,000.

In December 2003, Adrian Delia appointed London lawyers Pitts-Tucker to write to Lolly and Eve Bajada, accusing them of having pocketed over £35,000 in monthly rents on the London properties owned by Healey and AAS – or £1.46 million since 1999 – and threatening an action for embezzlement and breach of trust.

Lolly Bajada’s lawyers wrote back to Delia, claiming they had paid him £20,000 every month into his Barclay’s International account in Jersey.

In the midst of the feud, Kris Bajada says he managed to convince – upon suitable payment – Lolly’s strawman Martin Farrugia to ‘switch sides’, in a bid to facilitate his eviction from the properties as the tenant.

So Delia’s London lawyers now were also acting on behalf of Farrugia, accusing Lolly and Eve – technically the ‘managers’ for Farrugia’s tenancy – of having collected some £800,000 in rents that had not been paid up to Farrugia. “[Healey] has suffered damage and loss of value because these properties have become tainted with their use in your hands for the purposes of prostitution as brothels,” the legal letter to Lolly and Eve reads.

With Farrugia out, Eucharist Bajada passed on the title of his Soho property to a certain Mark Barbara – a nominee with an address registered at his London lawyers – whom he knew from restoration works he had carried out at his Malta house.

Eucharist Bajada had passed on the title of his Soho property to Mark Barbara who is today the designated driver to minister Chris Cardona
Eucharist Bajada had passed on the title of his Soho property to Mark Barbara who is today the designated driver to minister Chris Cardona

Yet once again the connections cannot be ignored.

When Lolly was arrested for running a brothel in Malta in 2005, his lawyer was Chris Cardona. Today, Mark Barbara is the designated driver to minister Cardona.

Additionally, Eucharist Bajada tightened his affairs by appointing Delia as a director of Healey Properties’ own shareholding companies Oaklawn and Penleigh, a double-tier of protection for the company ownership. The memorandum also shows Cardona’s name listed as a director, but unlike Delia’s, there is no signature.

Barbara’s close association with Cardona only highlights what Kris Bajada says are the “numerous coincidences that make up life in Malta, a small place where everyone knows everybody… you cannot suggest there is bad faith behind every ‘manoeuvre’.”

However, even after Operation Pabail, the properties, until recently, were still being used for prostitution services.

According to City of Westminster planning records, the owner of the Greek Street property is now a British Virgin Islands company called Maybole Development Corporation, whose lawyers are the same Bajada had been using – Pitts-Tucker.

“What is clear is that the use of the basement for purposes of prostitution commenced within the last 10 years without the benefit of planning permission,” planning inspectors wrote in 2007, after having conducted numerous inspections in 2004 and 2006.

Pitts-Tucker wrote back saying, “the use of the basement for purposes of prostitution was being undertaken without their client’s knowledge and steps had been taken to evict the occupier.”

FIAU Investigation

According to the Times the FIAU has conducted an in-depth analysis of Delia’s Jersey account, which it found had been opened in February 2001 and closed in October 2004.

During this period, an equivalent of roughly £346,000, in the form of cheques and cash, would have been deposited into the account from various bank branches around London.

The FIAU tracked funds from Delia’s Jersey account being transferred to two Swiss accounts as well as the company Healey Properties Limited, which is registered in the Bahamas.

The company owned a number of the properties known to have been used as brothels over this period.

The company is believed to have held eight accounts at Bank of Valletta and possibly others in different jurisdictions.

More than half of the money, some £218,000, was transferred to two accounts in Switzerland but it was unclear where the money moved to next.  £91,568 went to Healey Properties Ltd and £40,000 to E&M Bajada Ltd, in Malta.

Investigators who spoke with the newspaper pointed out that deposits to Delia’s account were irregular and varied from £400 to £16,000 per deposit, suggesting they were not regular rent payments.

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