The Nationalist Party has issued the due diligence report conducted on Opposition Leader Adrian Delia and candidate Bernard Grech, finding that the former had unpaid taxes as of last July.
As for Grech, the panel found that he took years to regularise his tax position. Both candidates were slapped on the wrist for their past handling of their taxes.
The report was published after the Administrative Council unanimously approved Delia’s request for publication.
A panel of three experts were appointed by the PN’s Candidates Commission to assist it in the exercise. The panel was made up of Antonio Ghirlando, Clyde La Rosa and Mario P Galea.
The experts were tasked with assisting the Commission in assessing the suitability of Delia and Grech, and had to, among other things, probe their financial and business affairs and, where appropriate, the interests of their family members.
The candidates were asked to fill out a questionnaire which included business and corporate affiliations. Documentary evidence was also collected from the contenders, including an audited statement of wealth, certified true copies of income tax/VAT returns, and bank account statements for each account held.
Research was also undertaken and included scanning databases and websites such as the MFSA, MGA, and others. Candidates were then interviewed to gain better understanding of the information collected.
The expert’s works was, however, limited by a number of factors including access to information, lack of resources and time limitation.
The due diligence exercise delved into a number of media allegations over the years, including the Jersey Bank Account allegation.
“If the allegations made by the press reports are proved to be true, in particular if the allegations that the FIAU has investigated the matter and issued a report which has concluded that Delia had a bank account in Jersey which ‘may have been used for money laundering’ are true, it would certainly render Dr Delia unfit for public office. On the other hand, if Delia’s rebuttals are correct and the press reports are incorrect, then Delia would have had his reputation unjustly tarnished.”
The Yorgen Fenech allegations were also dug into. It was, among other things, alleged that Fenech invited Delia for lunch, to which the PN leader replied that he would ask his former aide, Pierre Portelli, to set it up.
The due diligence report read: “To communicate with Fenech, let alone to consider taking him up on his offer for lunch after he had been identified as being beneficial owner of 17 Black, if proved to be true, would constitute a serious lack of judicious behaviour on Adrian Delia’s part, which would undermine his credibility and that of the party which he leads in its fight against corruption.” Delia has argued that this message exchange was fabricated and that there was no record of it on his mobile phone.
Aside from delving into other press episodes Delia has had to deal with, the report also went into his financials.
With regards to his approximately €600,000 in loans he declared in 2019 in Parliament, the panel found that it is in line with what they calculated from the statements of the numerous bank loans and overdraft. The panel found that his statements of affairs suggest that meeting current financial commitments “is an ongoing task being faced by Delia. Delia informed the panel that the larger part of his financial commitments would be extinguished should he dispose of a second property which he owns.”
In terms of taxes, an issue which Delia has faced in the press in the past, the document reads: “The panel has seen undated tax returns for the years of assessment 2018, 2019 and 2020 presented by Delia. The panel has also seen a letter issued by the Commissioner for Revenue dated 14 May 2018, certifying that Delia had, up to that date, no pending tax, FSS and SSC balances due. In terms of a Statement of Affairs dated 31 July 2020 presented by Delia to the panel, Delia declared that he has material tax balances due as well as interest and charges on the tax balances due.”
The document highlighted that Grech did not have a prominent public function before, and so media reports on him were sparse.
On his financials and business interests, during his review, the experts noted that he had committed minor procedural shortcomings with the management of his Clients Account as a lawyer, but said that they did not detect any wrongdoing but only minor oversights which consisted in not fully segregating his professional clients accounts and personal bank accounts, which matter was later rectified.
On his financial affairs, press reports had alleged that in June 2016 the Inland Revenue had asked Grech to settle a bill for unpaid taxes for the years 1990 to 1996, and further that in June 2012 Grech was requested to settle an unpaid taxes bill for the years 1991 to 2011 (except for 1997 and 1998). Reports also read that he was requewsted to settle VAT assessments due for 2014 to 2019. “It was also reported that Grech settled his pending tax issues on 10 August 2020.” The panel did note, however, that Grech in his interview with them did not provide a complete picture of his tax issues.
The panel noted that it was provided with a compliance certificate issued by the Office of the Commissioner for Revenue dated 2 September 2020 which states that Grech submitted all tax returns and has no pending liabilities, the report read.
The panel regretfully noted however that Grech only regularised his position after a number of years.
On both candidates’ tax issues, the experts said that every citizen has a moral and ethical duty to file tax returns and pay all taxes due in a timely mannet and that politicians should lead by example and be judged by higher standards.