The Malta Independent 21 March 2019, Thursday

Caruana Galizia family rejects Prime Minister’s offer to drop libel proceedings

Thursday, 14 March 2019, 18:44 Last update: about 6 days ago

Last month, the Prime Minister said he would drop libel proceedings if the family accepted the findings of the Egrant inquiry

The family of assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has rejected the Prime Minister's offer to drop libel proceedings in return for a declaration that they accept the findings of the Egrant inquiry.

Last month, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat took the witness stand in a libel case he had filed against the journalist over the the infamous 2017 blog that alleged Egrant belonged to Michelle Muscat.

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"I'm not after the person responsible but I will be content if it is accepted that it was a lie... I expect and demand a clear declaration from the other party that they were wrong and I am ready to drop the libel cases," Muscat had said.

However, in a formal reply to the Court of Magistrates on Thursday, the family pointed to the fact that it had not seen the full inquiry report and was therefore not in a position to accepts Muscat's offer.

In several articles published on her blog, Caruana Galizia, who was murdered in a car bomb in October 2017, had alleged that Muscat's wife Michelle had opened an offshore company called Egrant to launder proceedings of corruption. She also alleged that Egrant received money from Azerbaijan.

The blogpost prompted Muscat to call for a magisterial inquiry, which 17 months later concluded that there was no link between Muscat and the company.

The inquiry could not find any trace of the $1 million the company was alleged to have received, with the magistrate noting that there was great difficulty to reconcile the accounts given by Caruana Galizia, then The Malta Independent director of content Pierre Portelli and Maria Efimova - the former Pilatus Bank employee believed to have been Caruana Galizia's source.

The Magistrate remarked that there were many points on which the statements of Efimova and Caruana Galizia did not appear to correspond when examined together or separately with the rest of the obtained evidence. 

In its reply, the family said that it did not have access to Caruana Galizia or Efimova's testimony before the magistrate, nor did it have access to the testimony given by Mossack Fonseca employee Jacqueline Alexander, whose signature was Egrant's declaration of trust.

Moreover, the family also said it had no access to testimony by Nexia BT's Karl Cini and Brian Tonna - who had claimed to be the owner of the once secret company - as well as other findings that allowed the magistrate to arrive at his conclusions.  

 


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