Caruana Galizia inquiry expert cross-examined behind closed doors in MaltaToday libel case

In an unusual move Magistrate Rachel Montebello ordered the court expert to testify behind closed doors in a libel case he instituted against MaltaToday and Illum

The court ordered libel proceedings to continue behind closed doors fearing that the replies of an expert who was part of the Caruana Galizia murder inquiry could impinge on the inquiry's secrecy
The court ordered libel proceedings to continue behind closed doors fearing that the replies of an expert who was part of the Caruana Galizia murder inquiry could impinge on the inquiry's secrecy

A magistrate has taken the unusual step of ordering the hearing of a libel case continue behind closed doors, after a court expert testified about his role in the Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry.

Security Company director John Muscat had sued MaltaToday and its sister newspaper Illum for libel after they carried articles naming him as the possible leak who was feeding information about the inquiry to politicians and the foreign press.

Presiding Magistrate Rachel Montebello gave the order to vacate the courtroom this morning as the case filed by Muscat continued.

Earlier, Muscat, who told the court that he was the director of a security company, took the stand and said that he had been asked by inquiring magistrate Anthony Vella to assist in the Caruana Galizia murder probe but was never paid for his services.

The fact of his non-payment was confirmed by a representative of the Registrar of Courts. But when lawyer Veronique Dalli asked in cross-examination whether he was officially appointed as an expert, and what his expertise and his involvement was, she was stopped by the court.

Noting that there was a probability that publishing his replies would jeopardise the secrecy of the magisterial inquiry, the court then ordered everyone to leave.

The case then continued behind closed doors.

During the first sitting last December, Muscat raised eyebrows in court when he claimed not to have been part of the Caruana Galizia murder inquiry and yet submitted in court that he had returned papers to the inquiring magistrate.

Muscat was mentioned in articles written by the two defendants, which outlined the internal tensions within the murder inquiry and a leak was identified when red herrings were fed to selected persons who acted as experts.

According to the MaltaToday article, “Police sources complained that they could not trust some of the court experts appointed to the inquiry: they included John Gera, a health and safety expert who has since resigned from the investigation after Magistrate Neville Camilleri took over the case; but also, John Muscat, a security consultant who is also the brother of former PN campaign manager, now The Shift journalist Caroline Muscat; and former Security Service officer Roberto Critien.”

It was not until the departure of Magistrate Anthony Vella from the investigation that it was possible to identify the leak.

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