Caruana Galizia estate ordered to pay €2,000 libel damages over Konrad Mizzi extramarital affair story

"With the only person who knew anything about the investigation dead, her sons and husband could not mount an effective defence" - Corinne Vella, Daphne Caruana Galizia's sister

Konrad Mizzi
Konrad Mizzi

Two libel cases filed over a 2014 blog post alleging that Konrad Mizzi, a Cabinet minister at the time, was conducting an extramarital relationship with his communications coordinator, have been decided against the post’s author, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was murdered in 2017, awarding moral damages.

The decisions were handed down this morning by the Court of Magistrates, presided by Magistrate Victor Axiak.

The first case had been filed by Konrad Mizzi and Sai Mizzi Liang, and the second by Lindsey Gambin.

Both cases revolved around a November 2014 blog entry posted by Caruana Galizia, titled "This is the Super One journalist Konrad Mizzi has been seeing, and the reason his wife left to China". The article was accompanied by a photo of  Gambin, a former One journalist, who was Mizzi's communications coordinator at the time.

Konrad Mizzi had testified in 2015, telling the court that the blog post had “caused him damage on both a personal and professional level” and had cast a shadow over his integrity in the minds of the electorate. 

Sai Mizzi Liang had also testified the following year, denying that she had left to China because her marriage to Mizzi had broken down and claiming her relocation abroad was only a “career decision.” She had told the court that in China, it was not uncommon to maintain long-distance marital relationships for a long time while both parties pursued their respective careers.

Lawyer Peter Caruana Galizia, who opted to take over as defendant after his wife’s murder to allow the case to continue, had testified to being present when Daphne Caruana Galizia had received a phone call from a trusted source whom she had described as a former police officer.

He had heard his wife’s side of the conversation and understood that the caller had seen Konrad Mizzi and Lindsey Gambin kissing each other in the early hours of that morning inside the Tiffany Champagne and Cigar Room at the Hilton.

He also recalled his wife telling him about information she was receiving from a number of different sources which appeared to lend credence to persistent rumours and about Mizzi’s private life. He said that Daphne Caruana Galizia had told him that the Mizzis’ marriage had collapsed and that Sai Mizzi Liang wanted to go back to China to live there with her children.

Police Superintendent Keith Arnaud, who had obtained access to Yorgen Fenech’s mobile phone contact list as part of the police investigation into Caruana Galizia’s murder, had testified that a keyword search had confirmed the presence of Konrad Mizzi’s and Lindsey Gambin’s numbers on it, but not Mizzi Liang’s, nor the keyword “lover.”

Magistrate Axiaq concluded that the two central allegations: the extramarital affair and the giving of a sham Malta Enterprise contract to Mizzi Liang were not proven. 

The court disagreed with the argument that the defendants had been placed at a disadvantage by the murder of the principal witness, because Caruana Galizia had testified during the case and “resolutely refused to give up her sources, as was her right.” However photographs that she had allegedly received from her sources were never exhibited.

Caruana Galizia’s allegations, in particular that Konrad Mizzi had awarded a sham contract through Malta Enterprise to his wife Sai to cover her relocation to China “was of a rather serious nature,” the magistrate opined.

The court observed that Caruana Galizia’s blog was very popular and had a large audience in Malta as well as abroad, and noted that the article in question remains available online to this day.

“On the other hand, the court cannot ignore the fact that it was a difficult, if not downright impossible, task for the defendant (and her heirs) to prove that her allegations were substantially correct, because she could not betray her sources,”  said the magistrate.

“Neither can the court ignore the fact that, in part, the publication was not only ‘of interest’ to the public but rather ‘in the interests of the public itself’ because it concerned the spending of public funds.”

After taking all of these elements into consideration, the court decided to liquidate moral damages of €1,000 to Konrad and Sai Mizzi jointly, ordering the same amount also be paid to Gambin.

Lawyers Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo represented all three plaintiffs.

Caruana Galizia family will not be filing appeal

Daphne Caruana Galizia's sister, Corinne Vella, told the MaltaToday that they will not be filing an appeal.

“The court has found in Konrad and Sai Mizzi’s and Lyndsey Gambin's favour because, with the only person who knew anything about the investigation dead, her sons and husband could not mount an effective defence. This is a human rights violation on many levels. People involved in the corruption that enabled and led directly to a journalist's murder continued to sue that murdered journalist in an attempt to harass her family into silence," she said.

Vella observed that the magistrate had also appeared to have acknowledged the fact that the cases would be practically impossible for Daphne’s family to win in her absence and has tempered the award of damages accordingly.

"There will not be an appeal as this would be a further opportunity for the plaintiffs to continue to harass Daphne’s family.”