Chris Cardona won’t drop Caruana Galizia libel, but timing is key in ‘incriminating’ Acapulco phone data

Economy Minister Chris Cardona said he is not dropping Caruana Galizia libel cases over alleged German brothel escapade

Economy minister Chris Cardona
Economy minister Chris Cardona

Updated with correction

Economy Minister Chris Cardona has said he will not be dropping the libel cases he instituted against slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The libel case he filed against the journalist over claims that he had visited the Acapulco brothel while on an official visit in Germany last year, continues on Thursday.

But Cardona denied reports that he planned to drop the cases against the journalist. “I am not going to stop the libel proceedings,” Cardona told MaltaToday when contacted about the matter on Tuesday morning.

Cardona insisted he had no intention either of asking for a postponement of the case.

Caruana Galizia’s legal team have yet to present their evidence, which includes a sealed envelope of mobile communications data being held under lock-and-key inside Magistrate Francesco Depasquale’s chambers, which they hope will place Cardona near the brothel in Velbert.

Until that stage of the case, Cardona could yet drop the libel case, even while opening himself to a possible counter-claim for damages and financial losses.

Caruana Galizia’s sons and widower had assumed legal responsibility for the case after the journalist was murdered last October.

The case revolves around a story published on Caruana Galizia’s blog at the end of January 2017 when the journalist claimed that Cardona and his aide, Joe Gerada, were at the Acapulco brothel in Velbert. Caruana Galizia claimed to have a Maltese eyewitness, who saw both men inside the brothel.

At the time, Cardona and Gerada were on an official trip to Essen. Both denied being at the brothel and proceeded to sue the journalist. They also asked the court to issue a garnishee order on the journalist’s bank account.

The Caruana Galizia family later secured a court order for mobile phone data, known as Transferred Account Procedure (TAP), of Cardona to be secured. The information will be important to establish whether on the days of the alleged brothel escapade, Cardona and Gerada were in Velbert or not.

The data is sealed with the court and will eventually be revealed once the defence gets to present the data as evidence, which is likely to be entrusted to an independent expert appointed by the Court to validate.

The same data was collected for the mobile phone of Cardona’s aide Joe Gerada.

Earlier this week, Caruana Galizia’s son Paul tweeted his concern that Cardona may drop the libel case, in which case the data will never be made public. The tweet appears to have been motivated by the replies Cardona gave to The Daphne Project when asked about the libel cases he filed against the journalist.

In the replies released by the minister after last week’s story on his alleged meeting at a bar with the men accused of killing Caruana Galizia, Cardona said Caruana Galizia’s murder “has led to a re-consideration of these libel proceedings, both procedurally and substantively”.

He told The Daphne Project that he had entrusted his legal counsel to see how best “it would be to move forward”, refraining from further comments pending the end of proceedings.

There had been an attempt late last year for the parties to explore a way forward but these floundered. Cardona now insists he will not be dropping libel proceedings to clear his name.

Correction:

In a previous version it was erroneously reported that Joe Gerada had dropped libel proceedings when this is not the case.

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