Nationalist Party leadership contender Adrian Delia holds wife’s permanent and general power of attorney

Published: August 11, 2017 at 9:44pm

Nationalist Party leadership contender Adrian Delia holds his wife’s permanent and general power of attorney, allowing him to bypass the fundamental changes made to Maltese marriage law in 1993 which made it illegal – and impossible – for married men to enter into transactions of bank debt, sale or acquisition of immovable property and all the contracts attendant on any of this without their wife’s consent and signature. (Similarly, the law does not permit wives to enter into those transactions without their husband’s consent and signature.)

Before the 1993 changes, under Maltese law the husband was the effective and legal head of the household and his wife had the legal status of their children, with no say under the law in any decisions taken and unable even to prevent the sale of jointly-owned property without her knowledge or consent.

Husbands were also able to enter into debt with banks and other creditors without their wife’s knowledge or consent – even though the wife was liable at law for repayment of those debts along with her husband.

By acquiring a permanent and general power of attorney from his wife, Dr Delia has been able to revert the legal regime under which his marriage operates to that of pre-1993. He does not require his wife’s consent or signature at law for transactions of shares, real estate or other significant assets, nor to enter into debt with banks (loans and overdrafts) or third parties.

On 20th March 2006, Dr Delia borrowed – with his fellow company shareholders – a total of €12 million from HSBC Bank Malta plc. His wife’s signature was required at law for that loan.

One month later, on 24th April, his wife – a lawyer called Nickie Vella de Fremeaux, who used to specialise in, of all things, family law – gave him a permanent and general power of attorney, effectively signing away her right at law to be kept informed of how the money was used and whether payments were being met. (She also signed away her right to consent to and sign on any other transactions entered into by her husband.) She remained, however, liable with her husband for the debt.

Eleven years later, only €5 million of the original €12 million were repaid, the payment schedule was not adhered to, and HSBC Bank began exerting pressure for the repayment of the remaining €7 million still owed, plus interest.

Because they are unable to pay it as the situation stands, HSBC Bank has insisted on a formal admission of the debt plus interest, called a constitution of debt, which is drawn up by a notary and signed by the bank and its debtors.

This constitution of debt for €7 million plus interest was signed two weeks ago, on 26th July, but has not yet been filed at the Public Registry. However, because constitutions of debt are public deeds, under the law the notary cannot refuse requests for copies, even when those requests are made by ordinary members of the public or journalists. Within minutes of a phone-call to the notary in question, this website had a copy of the constitution of debt (a detailed report about the debt itself will be made in a later post, including comments from Dr Delia).

The first thing I noticed when reading it was that Dr Vella de Fremeaux, though listed as jointly and severally liable for the €7.2 million debt along with her husband, his business colleagues and their spouses, is not a signatory to this formal admission to the debt. The document notes down that her husband, Dr Adrian Delia, has her full power of attorney and that this power of attorney was given to him on 24th April 2006.

I immediately rang Dr Delia to ask whether his wife knows about the constitution of debt (and other questions about the debt itself) and why he has her power of attorney. The conversation did not go well at all. I found him infuriating to speak to, circular in his arguments, evasive and patronising. I ask point-blank, specific questions and therefore expect point-blank, specific answers.

Instead he used volleys of words to avoid answering the questions, and treated me like an idiot, saying that it wasn’t him not answering the questions but I who didn’t understand his answers. In other words, exactly the sort of patronising Maltese man who is cast-iron-guaranteed to make me lose my rag. Things became very loud and very angry, very quickly.

This is the edited and civilised version of that part of the conversation. (Dr Delia is currently on holiday with his wife and children, away from Malta.)


You appeared and signed for your wife on that constitution of debt with HSBC Bank for €7.2 million. Does she know about it?

Of course she knows about it. If you know about it, she knows about it. It’s a public deed.

I only know about it because I was tipped off and got a copy from the notary. Maybe you expect your wife to be tipped off and go to the notary for a copy too? Did you tell her about it?

She knows.

That’s not what I asked. If she knows, why wasn’t she present for the signing or involved in the negotiations?

Because I have her power of attorney.

Again, that’s not what I asked. Why do you have her power of attorney? In other words, why did she give it to you, when her legal training should make her aware of the risks?

Because she trusts me.

Lots of women through history trusted their husbands or had no choice but to do so because of the pre-1993 law. It didn’t necessarily turn out brilliantly well. So are you saying here that the 99.99% of married women in Malta who don’t give their husbands a full, general and permanent power of attorney don’t trust their husbands? Or that all women who trust their husbands should give them a full power of attorney? And then you expect them to vote for you. This is 2017 not 1917.

No, that’s not what I’m saying.

That’s exactly what you’re saying. So your wife didn’t go with you to sign on that constitution of debt because she trusts you, but Georg’s (Sapiano) wife went with him because she doesn’t trust him? It seems to me that this is what you’re saying. Also, you expect me to believe that she came up to you one day and said “I trust you so much, Adrian, that I’m going to give you my full power of attorney. And don’t think I’m going to let you refuse.” That doesn’t make sense to me. What it sounds like to me is that you asked – probably badgered – her for her full and general power of attorney and she gave in. In fact, I should have asked the question that way round at the outset: not ‘Why did your wife give you her power of attorney?’ but ‘Why did you ask your wife for her power of attorney?’ So go on, why did you ask your wife for her power of attorney?


We decided together. Because we had five children…

Please don’t come at me with your five children. Women don’t lose their mental faculties and their self-respect when they have children. It’s possible to have children and also take a couple of hours out of your day to go to a notary. Besides which, you’re talking to somebody who changed thousands of nappies in her lifetime and is not impressed by other people’s nappies. And a word of advice: stop using your children as a campaign device, because you’re starting to sound like one of those people who think it’s a miracle they produced any. Tell the public about your policy ideas instead. So again, why did you ask your wife for her power of attorney?

Because back then when we got the loan to start developing the flats at Mgarr, we had five…she decided to stay at home with the children because we had fi…she decided to take a step back and focus on raising the children.

OK. So first you got her to sign on the €12 million loan from the bank, then immediately you got the loan – well, not immediately because it took you a full month to persuade her – you got her to sign away her right to decide how the money is used and how the debt, for which she is liable, is repaid. Why?


So let me get this straight: you got your wife to sign away the rights she has through the 1993 marriage law, and meanwhile you also encouraged her to flush her law career and all that training down the lavatory and become totally dependent on you financially. I don’t like the sound of this. I like it even less coming from somebody aiming to become Opposition leader and then Prime Minister. I’m not comfortable with it at all.

My wife did not flush her career down the toilet. You’re a journalist, you say? You’re a journalist? That’s just your opinion.

Actually, it’s a fact. You yourself said that you asked her for her permanent and general power of attorney because she is so busy with her – what was it again, five? – children that she can’t possibly be expected to take a decision or two hours out of her schedule to appear on contracts in which she has a direct and compelling interest. So how is she working on clients’ decisions and contracts if she is too busy to bother with the few of her own? And yes, I’m a journalist. But you’re not a politician. Not yet, anyway.

I’m going back to continue my lunch. I don’t need to have this conversation.

Actually you do, because I’m asking these questions for the public you expect to vote for you. If and when you become Prime Minister, will you make it illegal for one spouse to give a power of attorney to the other? Because the way the situation is today, men who hold the purse-strings can coerce their wives into signing away their rights at law. And there is no justifiable reason for a man to have his wife’s power of attorney or even to ask for it in the first place. In fact, you couldn’t give me one. Even if a woman is certified insane, her husband doesn’t get to decide things on her behalf. And the Courts don’t give him a power of attorney to do it. They appoint curators to look after her interests.

Are you saying that my wife is insane? Is that what you said, that my wife is insane? I’m ending this conversation now.

I did not say your wife is insane. Don’t try that old trick with me.

By this time, we are both extremely annoyed and using deeply unprofessional tones of voice. He is clearly irritated by my refusal to listen in silence to his circular arguments without remarking on the flaws in them, and I am enraged by the chauvinism and more so by what I suspect is happening. We decide to end the conversation.

Nationalist Party leadership contender Adrian Delia