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Malta Yachting Awards to go ahead after court dismisses 'spiteful' injunction

A last-minute request for an injunction that would have stopped this evening's first ever Malta Yachting Awards event has been thrown out of court by a judge

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
17 February 2017, 2:56pm
Plans for the award ceremony had been thrown into turmoil after an application for warrant of prohibitory injunction, asking that the event be prevented from going ahead, was filed just two days ago (Photo by Chris Mangion)
Plans for the award ceremony had been thrown into turmoil after an application for warrant of prohibitory injunction, asking that the event be prevented from going ahead, was filed just two days ago (Photo by Chris Mangion)
A last-minute request for an injunction that would have stopped this evening's first ever Malta Yachting Awards event has been thrown out of court by a judge.

Plans for the award ceremony, which is taking place tonight at the Westin Dragonara Hotel, had been thrown into turmoil after an application for warrant of prohibitory injunction, asking that the event be prevented from going ahead, was filed just two days ago.

The application was made in the light of a dispute between Yachting Malta and PR agency MBR Publications, who are alleging that the Yachting Malta stole the idea of the award from them after they had been consulted "with the clear intention" of being selected to organise and advertise the event.

On their part, Yachting Malta argued that the request for an injunction was vexatious as it had only been filed 48 hours before the event and was unnecessary in light of the plaintiff's "misleading" claims.

In a sitting this afternoon, Madam Justice Lorraine Schembri Orland heard MBR's managing director Martin Vella testify that representatives of the two companies had met on five occasions to discuss the event, but a final agreement had not agreed on a commission. “We would ask whether there was someone else working on this event. They said no, but we had information from other clients that this was not true.” Correspondence about the negotiations was quoted in court.

The judge asked whether there was an email that confirmed the deal as being sealed. There did not appear to be one. “We had agreed....then all of a sudden, out of the blue, there was a change of heart,” he said, accusing the defendants of stealing his ideas and benefiting form them.

But the court also heard Wilfrid Buttigieg, CEO and director of Yachting Malta Ltd testify that the negotiations had been broken off months ago after Vella threatened to go to blogger and newspaper columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia and allege skullduggery to be the reason for which his offer was declined.

The reason the board took the drastic decision to halt the negotiations was a conversation that occurred on 6th January 2017 Buttigieg had met with Vella in a cafe, he said. “This is a day when a red flag really started waving,” said the witness. “He started repeatedly asking me who the directors of Yachting Malta were. He said that we stole the idea from his website. He threatened me, saying that if he didn't get the job he would go to Daphne Caruana Galizia and say that the RMYC board members were working with a criminal who was bribing them to eliminate him to get the job.” Vella's business partner had tried to calm him down after he said that, he said.

“I left the cafe and spoke to my lawyer, who told me to immediately stop all communications with this person.”

The plaintiff's input with regards the organisation of the awards ceremony had essentially only been to suggest basic requirements, according to Buttigieg. “You don't need to be a genius to know that for an award you need a hotel and a compere...”

He had been asked who the comperes were and had suggested three popular local comperes, one of whom was eventually engaged.

“MBR only caused us problems. Martin Vella caused no end of problems, going around telling people the event would not take place. He even went around collecting money in our name.”

Opposing counsel Andy Ellul cross-examined, pointing to “tens of emails” that documented the negotiations.

“Are you saying that none of the ideas were used?” he asked. “All we are doing tonight comes from us,” replied the witness. “The only idea that could have come from MBR is the compere,” Buttigieg replied.

Ellul, who represented MBR in the proceedings, said his clients had been in continuous correspondence with Yachting Malta and Wilfrid Buttigieg in particular, since August last year, following the issuing of a call for expressions of interest the previous January.

He argued that his client would suffer greater damages from the use of their ideas if the event is allowed to go ahead that Yachting Malta would if the injunction was upheld.

Lawyer Daniel Buttigieg, on behalf of the Royal Malta Yacht Club, submitted that the issue was not one of protection of intellectual property, as the plaintiff was making it out to be, but one where the plaintiff was expecting payment – a money claim.

“The injunction was tabled to stop us from working. This is not the warrant you make for a money claim, that would be a warrant of seizure or a garnishee order. You don't do this two days before the show, especially when you've known from January.”

Lawyer Michael Tanti Dougall, appearing for Malta Yachting Ltd together with lawyer Rosette Cassar summed up the defence's arguments. “He assumed that because four months prior he had been in negotiations to maybe enter into service agreement over ticketing, that the event was his...He left it till the last minute to file the injunction out of spite.”

In her ruling, the judge said the plaintiff had not shown that the injunction against tonight's event at the Westin Dragonara was necessary to prevent irremediable damages.

The court noted that the courts had consistently held that cases for damages are not started with an injunction. “There is certainly no immediate necessity. You know full well that jurisprudence is consistent in that a case which can be satisfied by a sum of money does not translate into a prohibitory injunction.”

The judge was particularly critical of the fact that the plaintiff had been informed that he had not been selected since January, but had waited until the last opportunity to file the injunction.

Lawyers Andy Ellul, Keith Borg and Stephanie Abela represented the Malta Business Review, whilst lawyers Michael Tanti Dougall and Rosette Cassar were legal counsel to Wilfrid Buttigieg. Lawyer Daniel Buttigieg appeared for the Royal Malta Yacht Club.

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...
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