Delia and wife pose with owner of notorious Sliema brothel shut down by police/Delia campaign aide, Sliema councillor was brothel customer caught naked with prostitute in police raid

Published: September 11, 2017 at 2:25am

Nationalist Party leadership contender Adrian Delia and his wife Nickie Vella de Fremeaux posed for photographs (see below) at his Sliema hustings a few days ago with Tony Aquilina, who owned a notorious brothel in that town, and with his wife Nancy and son Arthur.

Aquilina had bought the Berkeley Hotel, formerly known as the Debonaire Hotel, on Sliema’s Howard Street and proceeded to turn it into a brothel where women trafficked from Eastern Europe worked in rooms equipped with warning-bleepers connected to the reception desk. Tarcisio Agius, who ran the brothel for Aquilina, would press a button setting off the bleepers when the police raided.

In November 2003, police raided the brothel after months of repeated complaints from neighbours. Pierre Portelli, now a Sliema councillor elected on the Nationalist Party ticket, who is at the forefront of the campaign to have Delia elected party leader, was caught by police naked with a prostitute in one of the rooms, the bleeper in that room having failed to work.

The police arrested and prosecuted Tarcisio Agius, whose defence counsel was Franco Debono.

The brothel was shut down and never reopened. The building was eventually demolished and a block of flats built there instead.

The trial was concluded more than five years later: in 2009, Agius was jailed for one year for running a brothel. You can read and download the judgement here: JUDGEMENT IN THE MATTER OF THE POLICE VS TARCISIO AGIUS

Despite his having testified under oath that he worked directly for Tony Aquilina, who paid him Lm50 a week to look after the place, and that Aquilina received the money which the girls paid “for their rooms”, and despite the testimony of the prostitutes themselves that they paid their “money for the room” to either Agius “or Tony”, Aquilina was never even investigated or interrogated, let alone arrested, charged or prosecuted.

Aquilina, who used to be on the brothel premises almost every day, and who was recognised instantly by people who lived near the brothel and to whom this website showed the photograph below featuring him with Adrian Delia, got away with it while his employee spent a year in prison, lost his home, his wife and daughter, who became estranged from him because of it. He has since rebuilt his life, found God and helps others as a volunteer.

Tony Aquilina is a former policeman from Mqabba who now lives in a flat valued at more than €1 million on Sliema’s Tower Road. His contacts in the police force may have been instrumental in his evading justice. Neighbours of the brothel at the time suspected that when rare police raids were made, he was tipped off by contacts in the force, giving him plenty of time to clear up beforehand.

Repeated reports to the police made by people who lived near the brothel were ignored for more than a year, with some neighbours having all their car tyres slashed after they phoned the police to report the goings-on.

There was constant disturbance caused by taxis containing strange men parked haphazardly outside the brothel at all hours of the day and night, and convoys of cars from out of town driven by men who did not know their way around the area, stopping people to ask them for the Berkeley Hotel.

Worried neighbours also called the police when they heard a child, who had clearly been locked in one of the rooms alone while her mother had sex with paying customers, sobbing continuously.


Looking through photographs of Adrian Delia’s hustings in Sliema, I recognised one of the people with him as the man who owned and ran the Berkeley Hotel on Sliema’s Howard Street, between cross-streets Amery Street and Stella Maris Street, when it was a brothel (I am from that precise neighbourhood). I couldn’t remember his name. I showed the picture to a few people who would know, and was told: Tony Aquilina.

I remembered that a man had been arrested and jailed for running the place as a brothel, so I ran a search on the newspaper reports. There was Tarcisio Agius, but no Tony Aquilina.

The newspaper reports lacked detail, context and information, so I obtained the judgement in the matter of the Police vs Tarcisio Agius and read it. There he was: Tony Aquilina, named as the man who owned the place and took the money.

I ran a search on the newspapers to see whether there was anything about him being arrested and prosecuted too. There was nothing. Let’s cut to the chase, I said, and rang Franco Debono, who was Agius’s defence counsel. No, he said, he doesn’t think the police ever spoke to Tony Aquilina. Yes, he said, he does know who I mean by Tony Aquilina, because Aquilina is from his former constituency in Mqabba and he knows him.

Meanwhile, I had read in the judgement that the police had caught a couple of men in the rooms with prostitutes, and had hauled them in as witnesses for the prosecution. One of them, who had been naked when they entered because the bleeper hadn’t worked, was called Pierre Paul Portelli.

I don’t know how, but I knew instantly – call it instinct, call it experience, call it character-reading – that this was the Sliema PN councillor and Delia campaigner known only as Pierre Portelli. Court documents give your official name as it appears on your identity card, and not the name you are known by.

I ran an internet search, and sure enough, the Sliema councillor came up as Pierre Paul Portelli on an old blog he used to write. Preparing for a long process of elimination, I called up on the electoral register everyone by the name of Pierre Paul Portelli. I was surprised and thankful to discover there are just two, and the other one is a director at The Malta Independent, known to me personally, who I could strike off immediately.

That left just the Sliema councillor and Delia campaigner, so I rang him at 11am. He said that he couldn’t hear and then the line went dead. This was followed by a text message saying that he was at a wedding on a boat and that telephone reception was poor. There was no offer to ring back. So at 1pm I sent him my questions by SMS and WhatsApp, to have all bases covered for excuses about internet and telephone reception.

In Nov 2003, you were caught naked with a prostitute during a police raid on a notorious brothel in Howard Street, Sliema – the Berkeley Hotel. You were then summoned by the police as a witness in the trial of Tarcisio Agius, who was convicted and jailed for one year for running a brothel.

1. Did you disclose this fact to the Nationalist Party before being accepted as a candidate on its ticket in the Sliema local council elections?

2. Given that the Berkeley Hotel was a most notorious brothel in a residential area, that caused maximum inconvenience to residents of that Sliema neighbourhood, do you not think you should have disclosed to your Sliema constituents the fact that you used the services of that brothel yourself?

3. Tony Aquilina, who owned the brothel but who was never investigated or charged as he is a former police officer himself, was photographed with Adrian Delia and both their wives at a campaign event a few days ago. You are working on Delia’s campaign too. As a former patron of the Sliema brothel and therefore aware of Mr Aquilina’s identity, could you explain the nature of his involvement with Delia and his campaign?

At 6.15pm, presumably when he had left the boat on which he had been trapped all that time for the wedding reception, Portelli sent me a WhatsApp message: “Hi can I call you please?” Here comes the usual sob-story, I thought, because if they aren’t threatening you with libel suits then they’re trying to manipulate you by appealing to your better nature, not in the least bit mindful of the fact that they have been rubbishing you all over social media which means that you have retired your better nature where they are concerned.

I replied: “Yes, of course.” After a considerable while, he rang, and began by telling me that he doesn’t know Tony Aquilina at all, doesn’t know who the man is. He then said that he was at the brothel because he was at a stag party.

Clearly, Portelli was unaware that I had read the court judgement in full and so knew that he was lying because the police had only picked up one other customer who was unknown to him, and also because Portelli’s testimony was reported. He had told the police and the court that when the police entered the brothel, he had just taken off his clothes and the prostitute was in the process of explaining to him that she was only doing it because she had no money and was desperate to go back home to her country. He had also told the court that he had gone to the Berkeley Hotel because he had been told that “you could have sex with Russians there for a going rate of Lm15”.

I think it was actually his use of the words “going rate”, which Judge Padovani Grima quoted in her judgement, that instantly made me certain when I read it that he was the Pierre Paul Portelli in question. It is such a that-kind-of-Sliema-man thing to say, even about an encounter with a prostitute ranked for value for money in transactional terms (I am both naturally and professionally attuned to the use of language). That, and the fact that Portelli lived in Sliema at the time and it would have been just typical to go there on the basis of going rate and walking distance.

I decided I wasn’t going to sit there and listen to a whole bunch of lies as I had done with the man for whom he campaigns. So I just said: “Look, can you put all this in writing and send it to me by WhatsApp so that I can be sure to quote you exactly?”

“In writing? OK,” he said, and then he never did. So then I sent questions to Adrian Delia’s press aide, as follows.

This photograph was taken at Delia’s Sliema meeting. Dr and Mrs Delia are posing with Tony Aquilina, his wife Nancy and son Arthur. Aquilina is an ex policeman who owned a notorious brothel in Howard Street, Sliema, called the Berkeley Hotel. It was shut down by police in Nov 2003. Aquilina’s manager, Tarcisio Agius, went to prison for a year. During the police raid on that brothel, one of the customers caught naked with a prostitute was Pierre Paul Portelli, who is working on Delia’s campaign. He was a witness in the trial.

1. What is the nature of Delia’s association with brothel-owner Tony Aquilina?

2. Why does he think nothing of being photographed for campaign purposes with such deeply unsavoury characters?

3. Given his association with a variety of brothel-owners, how are we expected to take his pronouncements seriously on the commercialisation of prostitutes?

4. Was Delia aware that Pierre Paul Portelli, who works on his campaign, used/uses the services of prostitutes and that he was caught naked by the police during a raid on a brothel?

Those questions have remained unanswered too.

(Left to right) Nancy Aquilina, Adrian Delia, Nickie Vella de Fremeaux, Arthur Aquilina, Tony Aquilina

Pierre Paul Portelli on the campaign trail with Adrian Delia

(Left to right) Sliema councillor John Pillow, Adrian Delia, Sliema councillor Pierre Paul Portelli

75 Comments Comment

  1. C. Brincat says:

    Not only is prostitution going to be fully legalised, but I bet these guys are already planning to take full advantage of it.

  2. Clive Bonnici says:

    Astonishing. Now THIS is investigative journalism. All the news organisations in this country should be ashamed of themselves for falling so far below your standards. Thank you, Daphne.

  3. Peppi says:

    This episode is exactly contemporaneous with the Soho brothels one: 2003. I can’t help thinking they are somehow linked.

  4. Jim says:

    So, Pierre Portelli’s best excuse is that he was at a stag do. Here’s what you do if everybody else wants to visit prostitutes, Pierre: you leave. Simple as that. Even your lies show you up to be a pr!ck.

  5. Galeforce says:

    Gobsmacked. I think this Portelli was on an RTK radio yesterday morning lauding Delia’s virtues as a future PN leader (while Edwin Vassallo represented Said).

    Ghidli ma’ min taghmilha u nghidlek min int.

  6. Amadeo Lapira says:

    Ghidli ma’ min torqod u nghidlek x’int. Adrian, you’ve just been screwed.

  7. Nice, carrying the Stella Maris titular statue then thinking nothing of paying a desperate trafficked woman Lm15 to insert his knob into her.

  8. Franġiska says:

    Ilkoll jigdbu kemm jifilħu. Imma kif jgħid il-Malti: il-giddieb għomru qasir.

    U tigdeb illum u tigdeb għada, fl-aħħar tinqabad. Kemm ġejna tajjeb.

    Min jaħ*i l-aktar, u l-kompliċi bl-iskużi fil-but. tliet xhur ilu l-PN suppost li kien qed jaħdem biex il-Labour ma jitlax fil-gvern għal diversi raġunijiet fosthom l-imġieba ta’ uħud mill-kandidati/membri parlamentari, imma mid-dehra fil-PN mhemmx differenza, u jekk se jkollna lil Deliar bħala kap, mhux se jkollna alternattiva, la fin-nies, la fil-valuri u lanqas fit-tmexxija. Imbagħad bl-għajta ta’ tmexxija ġdida: fejn? fil-briedel?

    • NoThanks says:

      Ma tantx hu għomru qasir il-giddieb. Delia will win; Labour was re-elected; Cardona, Mizzi, and Mallia are back in cabinet.

      Is-sewwa ma jirbahx jekk hadd ma jiġġieled għalih.

  9. Kanvas says:

    Delia’s world: money-laundering, whore-mongering and choking debt.

  10. John Doe says:

    This is evidence, if more is needed, that the Nationalist Party needs to clean up its act, tighten its procedures and fight hard to retain its righteousness and image of a party that represents, clean, honest, intelligent people.

    Hats off for a lesson in investigative journalism. Without wanting to sound like a brown-noser, this piece of work is outstanding.

    • Rosie says:

      I like the intelligent people bit – where are they? I feel like I live in a country inhabited by an overly large flock of sheep where the shepherd is hell bent on destroying both the grazing ground and the sheep with the sheep forever grateful for the destruction.

  11. Pappun says:

    If you get to know Pierre Portelli, he’s always pontificating about values and principles. What a wanker.

  12. Uganda says:

    A horde of wankers.

  13. Gez says:

    The cliched phrase “everyone is human” is probably already doing the rounds in a way to mitigate Pierre PAUL Portelli’s behaviour. Be reminded that the women who end up working in the prostitution racket are human as well and not some products as they are being described on this forum:

  14. Nice says:

    “there is more to him that meets the eye”

    Yes – a love for prostitutes, money-laundering and gargantuan debt.

  15. Lawl says:

    Zewg Pierre Portelli’s – wiehed fuq quddiem u l-iehor fuq wara.

  16. Madonna, of course not. ‘Leader of the Opposition’ is a Constitutional role. The leader of Opposition is paid by the state, not the party, and has state-funded benefits.

    The leader of the Nationalist Party, on the other hand, can do what the f**k he likes.

  17. Gez says:

    Delia borrowed the trumped-up word ‘terrorised’ to generate a form of fear as if he will be the saviour and problem-solver.

    The residents of that part of Howard Street, half of them elderly, were themselves on the receiving end of vengeful acts such as the one described above where the tyres of their cars were slashed after several reports.

    If the decriminalisation of prostitution goes ahead, the situation is only going to get worse. Delia’s role as leader of the Opposition would be to put the brakes on this but considering his dark and murky past, I cannot see him doing anything against it.

  18. La Redoute says:

    The Berkeley brothel in Sliema, owned and run by ex-policeman Anthony (Tony) Aquilina, was raided in November 2003. It had operating for a long while before that. Who financed Aquilina’s takeover of the former Debonair Hotel, which he could not have afforded on a policeman’s salary? How did Aquilina launder the money before it ended up paying for a flat on Sliema’s seafront?

    The Bajadas’ Soho brothels were raided by the UK police in July 2003. The operation had been in place for 3-4 years. The takings of 20,000 a month were deposited in Adrian Delia’s offshore bank account in Jersey. He has never explained what happened to the money.

    There are unsavoury parallels between the two cases.

  19. pronoia says:

    Where do the other prostitution gods fit in this equation? Are they backing Deliar too?

  20. just me says:

    All Nationalist Party members should collect their vote as soon as possible, if they have not already done so and next Saturday VOTE FOR CHRIS SAID. We must get rid of this trash once and for all.

    • Angela Galea says:

      And all Nationalist Party members should be commenting and airing their views on as well and not just here, so that everyone and his/her dog will do his/her utmost to get rid of this trash ASAP. Since the Commission for the Ethics did not do its job properly.

    • Tabatha_White says:

      Some of the 70 plus generation still need info.

  21. Clive Bonnici says:

    Pimping Nation and Panama Ltd. What the hell has this country been reduced to?

    • Joe Bloggs says:

      Given the way that Panama Limited operates (in the shadows), one cannot help but wonder whether prioritising the discussion about legalisation of prostitution was perhaps a little more than a gutsy move.

      • Mr. Tibbs says:

        With all the attention focused on the Opposition, the Triad are busy building their empire, unhindered and serene.
        Delia will be the final piece that will render this Machiavellian story complete.

      • Manuel Camilleri says:

        Exactly my thoughts. Who knows what shady deals they have been signing behind our backs during this whole Nationalist Party charade?

        With all the Delia Factor going around, the Triad is enjoying some time-out from the press.

      • La Redoute says:

        You forgot about Tony Blair and the gas pipeline.

  22. There was no stag do. He went alone. It says so in the records of the case and in his own testimony.

  23. Probably what the rest of us know. But it shocks me less, quite frankly, than the fact that she has allowed her husband to bully her into her current situation.

    • Reader says:

      Though partial or temporary powers of attorney are common for example for someone to manage the affairs of a relative abroad, giving someone full power of attorney is certainly no normal decision, as someone who studied law like Mrs Delia would know.

      It’s not normal practice even among very rich couples, let alone people attempting to maintain a luxurious life typical of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ (or is it the Kardashians now?) off bank overdrafts and other debts long overdue to various individuals and entities.

      It’s more common that people in business go a step further in the opposite direction and opt for ‘separation of assets’ to further protect the family’s interests. Normally one associates separation of assets with cases where one tries to protect personal income and assets because, for example, one of them doesn’t efficiently calculate risks to take in business, or perhaps has some vice like gambling. Nothing could be further from the truth.

      This is why Delia’s excuse of the power of attorney over his wife being that of some kind of extreme trust between them holds no water at all.

      Couples who really trust each other opt for separation of assets, then the person in business would have a tacit agreement with his/her partner to register the family’s assets in his/her own name so that in the event creditors close up on them they’d have nothing to seize and the family assets would remain safely out of touch. It’s a dirty game on the creditors but one which is totally based on mutual trust between husband and wife.

      Strangely enough it’s also the opposite of the Delia/De Fremeaux relationship.

  24. I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with you at all. Any man who at 22 doesn’t know why it is wrong to go with prostitutes (nothing to do with the sex itself) has a major character flaw which is likely to remain extant.

    I wouldn’t trust a man like that at any age.

    You also have to ask why, at 22 when opportunities for normal sex are coming at a man all over the place in Malta, he preferred to pay Lm15 (and call it the going rate) to force himself on a non-consenting trafficked woman.

    • Josanne Holloway says:

      Some people do change following a negative or bad experience. Whether they choose to is a different matter. How they deal with it is also a different matter. If his behaviour following this experience suggests he has changed his attitude that is good. If he has not. Well then there you are. It is an unsavoury engrained attitude.

    • quickmick408 says:

      I doubt that the women all over Malta were heading his way. I would imagine he was a boring wanker who couldn’t score on a dart board.

  25. RF says:

    Not only was the owner Tony Aquilina not prosecuted but the court redacted his hotel’s name as “Ommissis Hotel”.

  26. maws says:

    So it seems the Nationalist Party I have voted for all my life is as dirty as Labour. I am not voting anymore.

  27. C Camilleri says:

    Unfortunately some Nationalists only vote for a Nationalist victory, irrespective of whether the leader has Nationalist ideals or not.

  28. That’s what it looks like to me.

  29. Busy Bee says:

    Nancy and Arthur Aquilina have nothing to do with this. Wife and son of the person who committed the crime cannot be blamed. They might or might not have known what was going on and even if they knew it would not have been easy for them to deal with the situation.

  30. Reader says:

    Silvio Zammit is disabled?

  31. Sowxal says:

    Malta is one big whorehouse.

  32. Clive Bonnici says:

    Not quite. If Delia is elected, and the Panama investigations exonerate the Labour top brass, then everything that ensues will be rock bottom. Honest to God there will be no hope left for this country.

  33. Liberal says:

    Delia would be as corrupt as Muscat, given the opportunity.

  34. Josanne Holloway says:

    There are a lot of “utter bastards” or sad men about. I am not condoning his behaviour. I am just saying that sometimes people do something bad, stupid, immature or immoral. Everybody can do this. They then have a choice of what to do next. Some mature, see the light what ever you want to call it. Others well they just get more immoral and sordid.

    • Gez says:

      True, everyone makes mistakes but once the lid is off that the man you’re aiding to become leader of the Opposition is involved in laundering money from prostitution, and that he could still be prosecuted for it and that he has lied about it, you need to take a good look at yourself and reevaluate your choices.

  35. I don’t work for a political party. I work for my readers and report what they want to read or, more specifically, what they need to know. What’s best for this or that political party simply doesn’t come into it. They have their own people and can look after their interests themselves. I think you are a little confused about the role of journalists in society. That might be because Malta is possibly the only place in Europe where political parties own media and have propaganda employees who go by the name of ‘journalists’ – but they’re propaganda employees.

  36. callixtus says:

    A virtual copy of the MLP. That’s exactly their plan. Whichever way the vote goes, Malta’s criminal mafia wins.

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