Right of reply: Strickland heir and Allied Newspapers

From Giovanni Bonello, Judge emeritus, chair of the Strickland Foundation

Villa Parisio, erstwhile home of Mabel Strickland and the seat of the Strickland Foundation
Villa Parisio, erstwhile home of Mabel Strickland and the seat of the Strickland Foundation

I refer to the feature “Bonello hits back at Strickland Heir...” carried in MaltaToday on April 11, to clarify some misconceptions and misinformation in the text and in the comments. I am doing this in my personal capacity.

Firstly, I never held judicial office in Malta, either as magistrate, judge or chief justice. In Malta I was always a lawyer in private practice, specialising in human rights-protection litigation. I defended a record number of human-rights cases, more than all the rest of the Maltese legal profession put together.

I am not responding to Mr Robert Hornyold Strickland. All his allegations form the subject of court proceedings, and I would rather rely on court judgements than on fanciful claims made by an interested party; many of his claims have already been wrecked by the courts.

I will limit myself to one observation. Mr Hornyold Strickland and Mr Hillman share the same legal advisor. Mr Hornyold Strickland is rightly indignant because the company of which he is shareholder, has allegedly been robbed by Mr Hillman to the tune of millions of euros. Would he care explaining how he, the victim of that robbery, is taking legal advice from the same lawyer who is also advising his alleged robber?

When allegations of serious irregularities at Allied Newspapers broke out, the directors of that private commercial company, as was their right and duty, wanted those allegations thoroughly investigated. They instructed a Board of Inquiry, independent of the company, to conduct an in-depth confidential investigation, with two objectives in mind: firstly, to discover the extent of the alleged wrongdoing and secondly to propose concrete measures for the avoidance of future misconduct.

I was appointed chairman of that Board of Inquiry and worked with a competent and dedicated team. My function was to report confidentially our findings to the Directors of Allied Newspapers.

At the end of our investigation, we forwarded our report, with our findings and recommendations, to the Directors of Allied Newspapers.

I am contractually and legally obliged not to disclose the contents of that Report.

What I can categorically state is that nothing in our Report shames the Allied Newspapers, apart from two rogue high officials of that Company who betrayed the interests of the Company they were meant to be working for.

The Report, in substance, only contains what is being revealed in evidence in the criminal courts. Any speculation that the contents of the Report are being suppressed to further some cover-up of facts that would embarrass the Company, is wholly baseless and fictional.

It is useless to call on me to publish that Report. I cannot make public a confidential report commissioned by a private commercial company under an express legal commitment of confidentiality. I do not have a copy of that Report.

Of course, if ordered by a competent judicial authority, I will cooperate fully and answer any question I am asked, even if I feel this will be betraying the trust of those witnesses who gave the Board of Inquiry important information in the belief that their evidence would remain confidential.

From Giovanni Bonello, Judge emeritus, chair of the Strickland Foundation