The Malta Independent 25 March 2019, Monday

Jason Azzopardi loses libel case against Owen Bonnici

Thursday, 10 January 2019, 16:02 Last update: about 3 months ago

Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi has lost the libel case he had filed against Justice Minister Owen Bonnici in the wake of controversy over the valuation of the former Löwenbräu brewery, which the former Nationalist government had transferred to entrepreneur Nazzareno Vassallo.

Azzopardi had filed for libel a year ago this month after Bonnici alleged that Vassallo had met Azzopardi while the latter was parliamentary secretary responsible for lands and had assured him that a compromise would be reached on the value of the land.

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The property was then sold at 1990 prices, some €7 million less than it was worth at the time.

Azzopardi denies the claim, which he said was libellous.

Bonnici had argued that he had made a fair comment on an issue of public interest, adding that his comment was based on sworn testimony.

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale ruled that the assertion by Bonnici was substantially correct in that it was based on Vassallo’s testimony before another court.

Vassallo was not summoned to testify in the libel proceedings to confirm or contradict that sworn statement.

Tonio Fenech, the former finance minister under whose portfolio was the Lands Department headed by then Parliamentary Secretary Dr Azzopardi, had also been reported to have said “If Zaren Vassallo had come to speak to me I would have sent him to Jason. If his file had been brought to me, I would have sent it to Jason. But none of those things happened.”

The court noted that Fenech was never summoned to testify in the libel suit.

Bonnici had also based his comments on a report by the Auditor-General, said the court, saying that this could be considered as a political comment and could not be considered as defamatory.

 

 

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