Days of slander - the election of defamation

Accusations and counter-accusations, and criminal defamation suits galore...

Allegations on the oil scandal led to defamation suits and complaints.
Allegations on the oil scandal led to defamation suits and complaints.

The 2013 electoral campaign proved to be no different from its previous counterparts with political parties, candidates and union leaders dishing out libel suits with gusto.

General Workers's Union leader Tony Zarb tops the league table of libel suits, with seven suits filed within a matter of weeks.

On the receiving end, PN ministers Austin Gatt and Tonio Fenech come on top, both receiving three libel suits in recent weeks.

Last week, Labour MP Emmanuel Mallia asked for the imprisonment of PN secretary-general Paul Borg Olivier over the publication of an article on the PN's news portal which claimed that Mallia was involved in the Enemalta commissions-for-oil scandal which rocked the government and dominated the headlines in this year's campaign. Imprisonment is still the highest form of punishment in Malta for criminal defamation.

Tony Zarb

General Workers's Union secretary-general Tony Zarb filed seven libel suits in the space of four weeks in the wake of a leaked conversation he had with an employer over lunch.

In the recording - broadcast by the Nationalist Party media - Zarb is heard suggesting that the union may "give a push" in tendering processes to companies which are friendly with it.

The union said the PN media recordings contained "false allegations, an attempt to tarnish Zarb's reputation".

Zarb filed libel suits against Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, PN secretary-general Paul Borg Olivier, PN deputy leader Simon Busuttil, PN executive council president Marthese Portelli, head of PN media Nathaniel Attard, Parliamentary Secretary Clyde Puli and il-Mument editor Victor Camilleri.

Intershore Fiduciary Services Ltd

The three directors of Intershore Fiduciary Services Ltd filed a libel suit against Finance Minister Tonio Fenech for alleging they were involved in the commissions-for-oil scandal.

Former Labour financial controller and candidate Joe Cordina, Carmel Scerri and a former PN candidate Martin Fenech, denied any involvement in the kickbacks paid for the purchase of oil by Enemalta, as alleged by Fenech.

Joe Cordina

Joe Cordina, who stepped down as Labour candidate and financial controller following finance minister Tonio Fenech's allegations on his involvement in the oil scandal, also sued the editor of In-Nazzjon, Alex Attard, over an article entitled 'The MLP Financial Administrator Behind the Oil Scandal'.

Tonio Fenech

Finance Minister Tonio Fenech expressed his intention to sue Labour MPs Evarist Bartolo and Chris Cardona over claims that he had received a gift worth €5,000 from oil trader-turne-State-informant George Farrugia when Fenech became responsible for Enemalta.

Emmanuel Mallia

Labour candidate and lawyer Emmanuel Mallia announced criminal steps against Nationalist secretary-general Paul Borg Olivier after he was accused by finance minister Tonio Fenech of involvement in the Enemalta fuel procurement scandal.

Mallia and Labour candidate David Farrugia Sacco were accused by Fenech of having been privy to any suspicious activity by an oil trader, as legal counsels to the plaintiffs in a civil lawsuit they launched against George Farrugia, hinting at them as the sources of a story first broken in the independent media.

"I am asking for the imprisonment [of Borg Olivier] because this country needs to know that nobody can defame somebody for any reason they like," Mallia declared.

Mallia, together with Labour candidates Evarist Bartolo and David Farrugia Sacco sued Transport Minister Austin Gatt for criminal libel over allegations that the three Labour candidates masterminded a frame-up against him in connection to the commissions-for-oil scandal, which allegedly took place when Gatt was responsible for Enemalta. Imprisonment is still the highest form of punishment in Malta for criminal defamation. Farrugia Sacco also confirmed he would be seeking legal action against the PN for defamation.

Austin Gatt

Gatt filed libel proceedings against MaltaToday after reporting that George Farrugia had "allegedly" met the minister.

Gatt denied ever meeting Farrugia to discuss oil procurements and in a reaction, MaltaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan said the emails MaltaToday had in its possession showed that George Farrugia had met with minister Austin Gatt, but did not in any way infer that Gatt was aware of or involved in any illicit deals.

Email correspondence, bank transfers and online chats revealed by MaltaToday show how businessman George Farrugia played a pivotal role in Enemalta's oil procurement decisions, while oil commodities companies Total and Trafigura worked closely with Enemalta's top officials, the former MOBC chief Frank Sammut and Farrugia himself.

Other correspondence published by The Times showed that Farrugia did meet minister Austin Gatt during the time that Enemalta was under his responsibility, according to an email he sent to a Total representative.

Paul Borg Olivier

Nationalist Party secretary-general Paul Borg Olivier filed a libel suit against the editor of GWU-owned newspaper l-Orizzont Josef Caruana over an article he described as "libellous and defamatory" involving former Sliema mayor Nikki Dimech.

Borg Olivier also said he would sue MaltaToday for libel over news reports that PN donor and construction magnate Nazzareno Vassallo's company MFCC Ltd had earmarked a total of €350,000 for services to the PN, after having written off some €1 million in debt by the MediaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan called on Borg Olivier to file for urgent proceedings so that the libel hearing takes place promptly.

"MaltaToday will prove in court what really happened between MFCC Ltd and the PN over the past years since Paul Borg Olivier was elected secretary-general."

Cyrus Engerer

Former PN Sliema councillor and Labour activist Cyrus Engerer filed a libel suit against Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and PN president Marthese Portelli over an article on the PN's election website,, entitled 'Positivity At Its Best?'

Engerer said the article, which alleged he had secretly recorded his ex-colleagues at the local council, was libellous and defamatory.

Broadcasting Authority

The Labour Party-nominated members of the Broadcasting Authority - lawyer Reno Borg and legal procurator Rose Sciberras - filed defamation proceedings against one of the Nationalist Party's members on the authority, Alfred Mallia Milanes, over his testimony in a court case instituted by the Public Broadcasting Services against the BA.

Mallia Milanes alleged that the two members were prejudiced against the PBS during hearings in which the national broadcaster is the subject of BA proceedings.

Tafu x'inhu id-dnub , li dawn il-libelli mhux ser jilħqu jinqatgħu qabel l-elezzjoni , ħalli jkollna il-konferma ta' min qed jgħid il-verita'. Mhux għax jien għandi xi dubju , imma sabiex dawk li jippretendu li huma qaddisin , u intbgħatu minn Alla biex imexxu dan il-pajjiz , jinkixfulhom qrunhom quddiem il-poplu Malti kollu .
Slander and defamation has been the hallmark of the GONZIPN clique unable to grapple with the truth that their days of reign and arrogance is over. Anything and everything in their eyes was legitimate to stay in their golden thrones. It is in this light that when these cases of slander are heard by our Courts of Law the full force of the Law, including imprisonment for malicious slander, should be imposed to ensure that no one in the future would stoop so low as to slander innocent people for political aims and personal gains.