The Malta Independent 30 September 2022, Friday
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Tonio Fenech awarded €4,000 in damages after winning libel cases over contractor claims

Monday, 10 July 2017, 18:49 Last update: about 6 years ago

A court has awarded Former Finance Minister Tonio Fenech €4,000 in damages after declaring that reports published in the Labour media were defamatory. The suits were filed against Glenn Bedingfield, Joseph Muscat as PL Leader, and Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi.

Fenech filed for libel over a report entitled ‘A favour worth €70,000’ aired on the One TV bulletin in November 2009 and a statement released by the PL Communications Office in May 2011 entitled ‘Ball in PM’s court.’

It was claimed that works carried out at Fenech’s Balzan home had been done for free by JPM Brothers in return for a favour regarding their projected sale of the Jerma hotel to Joe Gasan and George Fenech.

Jeffrey and Peter Montebello had contracted Rainbow Turnkey Projects, owned by Charles Magro, to carry out the works. However the works were abandoned when disagreement broke out with the subcontractors.

The matter was referred to former GWU boss Tony Zarb who, in turn reported the matter to Edgar Galea Curmi, PM Lawrence Gonzi’s personal secretary. It was claimed that Magro was still owed some €20,000 by Tonio Fenech.

It was later proved that the subcontractor had been paid €30,000 with a further €9,623 in cash. For the outstanding balance of €1,000, he received €905 which he had accepted in full and final settlement. Mr Magro continued to insist that he was still owed €20,000.

The court, presided over by Magistrate Francesco Depasquale, observed that Magro had cast a negative light on the former minister on the social media. It also noted that the Montebello brothers had denied the Jerma story.

The court rejected the ‘fair comment’ argument put forward by the defendants, who failed to prove that their allegations were based on facts.

The magistrate said it was a pity that “politicians lend importance to people like Charles Magro who are prepared to tarnish anyone's image, solely for their own financial gain.”

It said society and democracy stand to lose if trust in politicians is eroded further.

Glenn Bedingfield was ordered to pay Fenech €3,000 while the PM and Zrinzo Azzopardi were ordered to pay €1,000 between them.

Lawyer Peter Fenech appeared for Tonio Fenech. Lawyer Pawlu Lia appeared for the respondents.

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