Updated 2 | Lawyer to minister's aide says request to drop brothel libel case came from Peter Caruana Galizia

Economy Minister Chris Cardona and his aide, Joe Gerada, were accused by Daphne Caruana Galizia of having visited a brothel while on State business in Germany • Peter Caruana Galizia told the court Gerada offered to drop the libel cases, a claim Gerada's lawyer denies • Caruana Galizia family issue statement insisting they do not, "on any condition", want to drop libel cases

Economy Minister Chris Cardona and his aide filed four libel cases against Daphne Caruana Galizia
Economy Minister Chris Cardona and his aide filed four libel cases against Daphne Caruana Galizia

Updated at 7.20pm with statement from Caruana Galizia family

The Caruana Galizia family have this evening issued a statement insisting they do not, on any condition, want the “vexatious” libel cases filed by economy minister Chris Cardona and his aide Joe Gerada to be dropped.

Referring to the applicants’ lawyer Pawlu Lia’s quote in the media that “everyone wants to prove their innocence, but Gerada no longer has an interest”, the statement said that if economy minister Chris Cardona and his aide Joe Gerada were innocent, as they claim, they could prove this immediately by publishing their mobile phone location data which would show precisely where they were located at the time and day that they said they were not at the FKK Acapulco brothel.

Statement by Caruana Galizia’s husband and sons

“With reference to the various media reports relating to the vexatious libel suits filed by Minister Christian Cardona and his policy aide Joseph Gerada against Daphne Caruana Galizia, her husband and sons as heirs restate their position that they do not on any condition wish the cases to be withdrawn,” the statement read

“Today’s hearing in the cases filed by Cardona and Gerada, scheduled for 10:00am, was called at 9:25am when the respondents had not yet arrived in the courtroom. In their absence, the applicants’ and the respondents’ lawyers agreed to adjourn the cases.”

“The applicants’ lawyer Paul Lia is quoted in the media as saying that “everyone wants to prove their innocence, but Gerada no longer has an interest.” If the applicants Cardona and Gerada are innocent, as they claim, they can prove this immediately by publishing their mobile phone location data showing their precise location on the day and at the time they say they were not at the FKK Acapulco brothel in Velbert. This is in line with the family’s position, based on the clear and overwhelming public interest, that the cases should proceed and that the mobile phone location file data currently held in the magistrate’s court files should be presented as evidence in open court.”

“Cardona and Gerada have so far not cleared their names and have avoided the simple expedient of publishing their mobile phone location data to corroborate their version of events.”

The statement went on to underline that Cardona and Gerada are public officials, and it is their duty to behave in an ethical and correct way at all times. Moreover, it said, Cardona and Gerada had made a false declaration under oath when they filed the application for the issuance of precautionary garnishee orders in February 2017, amounting to the criminal offence of perjury, which would result in both losing their warrants as lawyers.

The onus was on them, the statement said, to prove that their behaviour was ethical and correct at the time of their official visit to Germany, when they filed the cases against Caruana Galizia, and in the way and motives with which they were handling the case now.

Updated at 2pm with comment from Joe Gerada's lawyer

What Peter Caruana Galizia told the court was untrue, according to Pawlu Lia, the lawyer representing Cardona and Gerada in libel proceedings filed against murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

On Monday morning Peter Caruana Galizia, husband of the late journalist, told Magistrate Francesco Depasquale that Gerada had offered to cede the case as long as the parties agreed that Gerada would not suffer the costs of the lawsuit (see further down).

However, it is alleged that the request for the cases to be dropped came from Peter Caruana Galizia and not the other way round. Lia, who contacted MaltaToday after the original report was published, said the talks to reach a settlement on this case were initiated by Caruana Galizia.

"What Peter Caruana Galizia said was untrue... one day we came face to face in the corridor at court and he asked me if I was going to carry on with the cases. I replied what do you want me to do with them? This is all something he started himself," the lawyer insisted.

Lia said that Caruana Galizia asked him to cede the cases. "I then asked what would happen with the costs and was told that all parties would bear their own costs," Lia said, adding that he later went to his clients with the proposal.

The lawyer said his clients turned down the request since they wanted to prove the allegations wrong. However, it appears that Gerada had lost interest in the case.

"I told Peter that everyone wants to prove their innocence, but Gerada no longer has an interest - it's different from a proposal. This is the truth. I then asked Peter whether he could also speak for the children and he said he could," Lia said.

The lawyer explained that in the interim he was having talks with Joe Zammit Maempel, the Caruana Galizia lawyer, on what sort of declaration could be made. "Evidently the children did not agree and I am not going to accept that Peter gives a declaration and the children say they don’t agree," Lia said.

He insisted that at no point did Gerada give him instructions to propose to cede the case. "Peter asked me and this must be clear."

"What is public is public, but who spoke in public did not tell the truth. I am willing to take an oath on this before a court. It’s one thing saying I proposed and another that I accepted your proposal... it’s not the truth," Lia said.

What was reported earlier

Economy Minister Chris Cardona’s aide Joe Gerada has offered to drop two libel cases against murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia over allegations that he visited a brothel in Germany.

Gerada was at the centre of several stories Caruana Galizia posted on her blog in which she alleged that the man and Cardona had visited the Acapulco Sauna Club in Velbert while on government work in Germany. The sauna club is a brothel and Caruana Galizia claimed to have received the information from an eyewitness who spotted the two men at the brothel.

On Monday morning Peter Caruana Galizia, husband of the late journalist, told Magistrate Francesco Depasquale that Gerada had offered to cede the case as long as the parties agreed that Gerada would not suffer the costs of the lawsuit. Agreement is unlikely to be reached.

Gerada and Cardona denied the accusations and filed two libel cases each against the journalist. In an unprecedented move last year, they had also requested precautionary warrants worth the maximum possible damages awarded at law, €11,750, blocking the journalist’s bank accounts.

A crowd-funding initiative, however, soon gathered nearly twice the €47,460 frozen by the garnishees and within a few days, had raised almost €70,000.

Caruana Galizia’s heirs are thought to be intent on seeing this libel case through because of mobile phone positioning data that has been deposited in the acts of the case. This data could shed light on whether the men were at the brothel on the day and it is understood that it would be irretrievably lost if the case is withdrawn.

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