The Malta Independent 18 July 2024, Thursday
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TMI editorial: Dalli’s intimidation tactics - Attacks on press freedom will not work

Wednesday, 13 May 2015, 07:48 Last update: about 10 years ago

The criminal complaint filed against this publishing house by former minister and EU commissioner John Dalli cannot be described by any stretch of the imagination as a bid to clear his name.  Instead, it was merely another segment of his string of attempts to silence the press and to silence this publishing house in particular.

And just as those previous attempts have failed to coerce this publishing house into elevating him to sacred cow status, so will this.  As far as this publishing house is concerned, there are no sacred cows and anyone who is involved in wrongdoing in any capacity will be exposed by this publishing house without fear or favour. This is what we have always done and this is what we will continue to do.

Mr Dalli has, quite understandably from his perspective, taken exception to an article carried last Sunday in which it was revealed that a group of small cap American investors, who claim they have been defrauded of their life savings by Mr Dalli’s family members and cohorts, and with the collusion of Mr Dalli himself, has asked the FBI and the Malta police force to investigate fraudulent activity by the company responsible for the hiring of a villa in The Bahamas at which Mr Dalli stayed during his time as an EU commissioner.  That visit is also being investigated by the EU’s anti-fraud agency, OLAF.

That company is also to this day listed at Mr Dalli’s own office at Portomaso and his own daughters have served as the company’s directors.  There is also a great deal of correspondence that has been passed between the investors who claim they have been defrauded and Mr Dalli’s own daughter, who makes excuse after excuse, each more outlandish than the other, to the investors about why they have not seen their money yet.

As such, if Mr Dalli somehow expects this publishing house, or anyone else for that matter, to believe that he and his family members are not somehow connected to the company in question that has defrauded the American investors, he is seriously deluding himself.  But he is not deluding anyone else.

Mr Dalli’s reaction is unhinged to say the least.  In his press releases over the last two days he has made no attempt to reply to the multiple questions being raised over this issue but to state: ‘I do not have anything to do with the transfer of money between people.  I have never solicited investment and never managed investments.’

Even if this statement were to be taken as the Gospel truth, it would still not exonerate him from involvement. After all, after making that statement of denial, in the next paragraph he goes on to say how his daughter has been harassed by threats from the investors to go to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the US FBI, Interpol, the US Senate, the European Central Bank, OLAF and the Maltese police should they not see their money again.

He also states that he and his family have nothing to do with this affair.  But he does not address the cardinal point here:  why would these investors be asking the Dallis for their money back?  Are these people the sort that scour the internet for scandal-embroiled politically exposed people and set about making fallacious claims about them so as to extort money from them?  If so, that would be quite diabolical but it is, however, far from the truth.

The truth is that this is perfectly reasonable behaviour from people who have seen their life savings vanish before their very eyes, after believing that their investment would go to help impoverished people, while simultaneously turning a modest profit – an apparently great ethical investment geared toward the group of deeply devout people who were apparently targeted to invest in the scheme.

But Mr Dalli has, in his first reaction to the article, rather inexplicably threatened to sue the American investors in the US courts over what they are claiming.  He has also outrageously claimed that this publishing house is involved in a conspiracy of extortion and blackmail against him, and that we are supposedly in league with the American investors and OLAF itself.

Since Mr Dalli appears reticent about taking this newspaper to court for libel, where he will have to answer our questions on the case under oath, perhaps it will have to be this publishing house that will have to take Mr Dalli to court for this serious, blatant slander.

Then, just yesterday, we find that he has filed a criminal complaint against this publishing house, asking for the police to investigate our journalist who wrote the article last Sunday, the American investors and our entire board of directors.  Strangely, he did not include the editor of the newspaper itself despite the fact that the editor is well known to Mr Dalli.

What is also strange is that Mr Dalli has not initiated libel proceedings against this publishing house, the journalist who wrote the article nor the editor who published it.

What are we to infer from this course of action? Our reading is that Mr Dalli would have his case heard in the US courts, where the real questions will not be raised and where the press will have little but a fleeting interest in the case.

On the contrary, were he to file for libel in the Maltese courts, Mr Dalli knows full well that the full can of worms that this story is will be excavated to the very bottom by this publishing house and its lawyers.  He would not want that to happen now, would he?

The timing Mr Dalli chose yesterday to release his statement on the criminal complaint he has filed against this publishing house came, perhaps not incidentally, with the release of the European Court of Justice’s decision against him in his case of unfair dismissal from the European Commission back in 2012.

Moreover, this was the second time in less than a month in which Mr Dalli has chosen to write to our board of directors to complain about our reportage, again apparently shy of going straight to court to answer questions under oath – preferring to attempt to gag this media house by dragging its owners into the fray.

Mr Dalli’s accusation that this publishing house has a ‘defamatory agenda’ against him beggars belief.  This newspaper has, in actual fact, treated him more fairly than just about every other newspaper in the country.

We were, for example, the first publishing house to have interviewed him in the wake of his dismissal from the European Commission back in October 2012.  In that extensive interview, Mr Dalli said his piece fully and unadulterated. We even went so far in a number of editorials in the wake of that unsavoury incident to urge the powers that be in Brussels and in Malta to publish the full OLAF report, insisting that the man has a right to know what he is actually being accused of.  We have published several articles  and interviews with Mr Dalli over recent years and in those interviews, not a single words has been taken out of context, nor twisted or in any way, shape or form.

We have no particular axe to grind with Mr Dalli, nor a single bone to pick. But when a Maltese national is being accused of complicity in fraudulent activity and scammed investors are crying foul on both sides of the Atlantic – and considering his very hefty political baggage, the fact that the current government brought him in as a consultant and the fact that such acts were allegedly perpetrated at a time when he was serving as Malta’s appointed EU commissioner – the issue becomes the very essence of the national interest.

 

Photo is a photomontage

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