Court rejects case against Chris Cardona over Daphne Caruana Galizia garnishee orders

Chris Cardona and Joe Gerada had sued the murdered journalist for libel and obtained garnishee orders amounting to €46,500 in total, which had effectively blocked Caruana Galizia’s bank accounts.

Former Labour MP, Chris Cardona
Former Labour MP, Chris Cardona

The Court of Magistrates has rejected a claim for damages filed against former minister Chris Cardona by the heirs of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, over garnishee orders he had filed against her in retaliation for a story which alleged that he and an aide had visited a brothel while on an official visit to Germany.

Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo dismissed the case in a decision handed down this morning.

Through the case, which had been filed in December 2018, Caruana Galizia’s widower Peter Caruana Galizia and her sons, Matthew, Andrew and Paul, had sought damages from Cardona, after he withdrew his libel cases and the related garnishee orders without having presented any evidence to support his libel claim.

This, they said, indicated that the cases had been filed “maliciously, frivolously and vexatiously.” 

Cardona and one of his aides, Joe Gerada, had sued the murdered journalist for libel and obtained garnishee orders amounting to €46,500 in total, which had effectively blocked Caruana Galizia’s bank accounts.

Caruana Galizia’s heirs contended the withdrawal of the lawsuits was an attempt to bury mobile phone geolocation data, which would have shown the men’s whereabouts whilst in Germany.

After Cardona’s libel case against Daphne Caruana Galizia had been struck off by a court, an identical libel case filed by Joe Gerada, who had accompanied Cardona on his trip to Germany had also been withdrawn and with it, the opportunity to verify Caruana Galizia’s allegation that the minister and his aide had visited a German brothel while abroad on official business.

Cardona had testified, telling the court that the libel case had been cancelled on 31 May 2018 at Peter Caruana Galizia’s request, after Cardona had failed to appear for the court sitting. 

He had told the court that at the time, he had already withdrawn the garnishees because he had felt they were no longer necessary, as Caruana Galizia had been murdered a few weeks prior. 


Caruana Galizia hit with four libels after explosive "brothelgate" story

On 7th February 2017,  Chris Cardona, at the time the minister for the economy and his aide - today one of his lawyers - Joe Gerada, had filed four separate libel cases, together with court applications for two garnishee orders each against Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

Each garnishee asked the court to freeze an amount equivalent to the maximum damages that could be awarded in a libel suit at the time, just under €12,000 each.  The precautionary warrants, which up till then had never been used with libel cases, bound all Maltese banks to freeze those amounts in any accounts which the journalist operated with them. The garnishee orders also directed Transport Malta, to prevent her from selling any vehicle which she may have owned.

Daphne Caruana Galizia had filed an application requesting the warrants be revoked but the Court had turned down this request. On March 1, 2017, HSBC deposited €43,000 in court as it was bound to do by law.  A week later, in order to cover the remainder,  the journalist herself had deposited a further €3,500 in court, bringing up the total to €46,500, enough to allow for the warrants to be revoked.

Two months later, Cardona and Gerada agreed to sign counter-warrants in view of the fact that the sum they were claiming had been deposited in court.

The warrants were then revoked, leaving the €46,587.48 seized under the garnishees, tied up in court until the libel cases were concluded, or Cardona and Gerada consented to their withdrawal.