Mizzi withdraws Panama libel cases against Caruana Galizia and Nationalist MPs

Minister implicated in Panama Papers drops five libel cases after courts throw out a request for an inquiry into the Panama Papers made by Nationalist MP Simon Busuttil

Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi
Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi

Five libel cases filed by Minister Konrad Mizzi over allegations arising out of the Panama Papers leak have been ceded.

When the cases were called earlier today Magistrate Francesco Depasquale declared that Mizzi had formally withdrawn the cases.

Two of the five libels had been filed against Daphne Caruana Galizia over claims she had made in her blog that a company owned by one of the daughters of Azerbaijani ruler Ilham Aliyev had made sizeable monetary transfers to Hearnville Inc, Tillgate Inc and Egrant Inc, under the guise of “loan payments”. The transfers had been made from Dubai-based Al Sahra FZCO, which is owned by Leyla Aliyeva, through the company’s account at Pilatus Bank, according to Caruana Galizia’s blog post.

The alleged payment made to Egrant Inc. through Pilatus Bank was never found to have taken place, a magisterial inquiry in 2018 had revealed.

Another two of the libel cases had been filed against former leader of the Opposition Simon Busuttil and the fifth had been filed against former PN Deputy Leader Beppe Fenech Adami.

The minister said last month that he had decided to withdraw the suits, following a court ruling against Busuttil and MEP David Casa in January, which had held that there were insufficient grounds to launch an inquiry into facts unearthed by the Panama Papers.

Mizzi had subsequently released an official statement, telling them that they had “lost their political credibility,” despite not having to “shoulder a monetary cost for their lies.”

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“By withdrawing distracting libel cases, minister Mizzi can focus greater energy on delivering projects in areas which will continue to provide a significant boost to the economy and to make a positive change to the lives of Maltese families,” the Tourism Ministry statement read.

In a ruling in January, judge Giovanni Grixti upheld an appeal, by Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri, and others, against a previous decision by magistrate Ian Farrugia, who had ruled there was enough evidence for an inquiry into the Panama Papers revelations.

Judge Grixti effectively threw out the request for an investigation into the revelations, which had been initiated by former PN leader Simon Busuttil and MEP David Casa.

Last month, magistrate Francesco Depasquale turned down a fresh request by Busuttil and Casa asking for an inquiry into possible money laundering connected with the 17 Black Dubai company, which was revealed by the Daphne Project consortium last year.

The ministry's statement had said that the Criminal Court had determined that the allegations of money laundering in connection with the Panama Papers revelations were "mere speculation”.

“In the absence of evidence (and there is none), the court dismissed Busuttil’s mud slinging as nothing but conjecture,” it said.

“In utmost contempt of the ruling, and disrespecting the Court, Simon Busuttil and David Casa sought further action by the Court of Magistrates. They again asked for an investigation which had just been declared as unwarranted and baseless by the Criminal Court.”

“Not surprisingly, the Court of Magistrates saw through the ploy and dismissed the second request. It declared that there is no uncertainty in the prevailing legal situation - the courts had already decreed conclusively that Busuttil and Casa’s allegations are no valid basis for a criminal inquiry.”

The ministry said that “Busuttil and his acolytes” had sought a platform to remain politically relevant “after a humiliating defeat at the 2017 polls”.

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