The Malta Independent 21 January 2021, Thursday

Mizzi and Schembri to file new libel cases against Caruana Galizia over fresh Azerbaijan allegations

Wednesday, 19 April 2017, 19:33 Last update: about 5 years ago

Minister Konrad Mizzi and Office of the Prime Minister Chief of Staff Keith Schembri this evening said they will be opening two more libel cases against journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia over fresh accusations she made on her blog today to the effect that their Panamanian companies received large amounts funds from Azerbaijan.

The two new libel cases follow two others instituted by Mizzi and Schembri over related subject matter Mrs Caruana Galizia published on her blog last Saturday.

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This evening Mrs Caruana Galizia alleged that, "A company owned by Leyla Aliyeva, one of the two daughters of Ilham Aliyev, ruler of Azerbaijan, transferred very large sums of money, described as "loan payments", to Hearnville Inc [owned by Mizzi], Tillgate Inc [owned by Schembri] and Egrant Inc [owner unkown] last year.

In a statement issued in the wake of the allegation, which remains unsubstantiated, Mr Schembri said, "For the umpteenth time, Daphne Caruana Galizia has resorted to lies and fabrications. My companies, or me personally, have never received, dealt or otherwise had any form of commercial relation or otherwise with Al Sahra FZCO or Ms Leyla Aliyeva, any member of Ilham Aliyev's family, or any other Azerbaijani national or person with interests in Azerbaijan.

"As stated numerous times, Tillgate Inc, has never had a bank account anywhere in the world, never traded or ever received any funds or entered into any commercial relationship. The company has been audited extensively and all the above has been confirmed by the international auditors.

"In light of Daphne's persistent lies and desperate machinations, I shall once again be instituting fresh libel proceedings and be requesting that the case be heard with urgency."

Minister Mizzi, on his part, issued a statement saying that, "Daphne Caruana Galizia is again lying outright."

Referring to the same allegations that a company owned by Leyla Aliyeva "transferred very large sums of money", described as "loan payments", to Hearnville Inc and other companies, Dr Mizzi's office said: "As with other recent allegations made by Caruana Galizia, these allegations are false and Minister Mizzi rejects the assertions in the strongest terms possible. No sum of money was ever transferred to Hearnville Inc. No funds from Azerbaijan, or from any person related to Azerbaijan, were ever transferred in any way to Minister Mizzi or to any member of his family. Neither does Minister Mizzi or any member of his family have any relationship with Ilham Aliyev or any member of the latter's family.

"Minister Mizzi had requested trustees to commission an independent audit of the New Zealand family trust and of Hearnville Inc. The trustees have engaged Crowe Horwath, one of the largest public audit and accounting firms in the world, and the audit has established that the financial statements of the structure were presented fairly, in all material respects and in accordance with accounting policies. The auditors have confirmed that the evidence they obtained was sufficient and appropriate to provide a basis for their audit opinion. This confirmed that the structure is solely intended as a family trust and that no bank accounts were held by the trust and company."

Minister Mizzi's office said he will "be instituting fresh libel proceedings against Caruana Galizia in connection with these latest slanderous allegations made by her. He will further request that the court hear the case with urgency."


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