False Cardona story leaked to press, never denied by Castille

MaltaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan tells court how police deliberately fed misleading info to weed out leaks in Caruana Galizia magisterial inquiry

MaltaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan said newspaper reports of Chris Cardona speaking to one of the alleged assassins of Daphne Caruana Galizia had been allowed to fester without any attempt from Castille to disprove the allegations.

Taking the witness stand in a libel case filed against him by a security officer appointed to the side of former inquiring magistrate Anthony Vella in the Caruana Galizia inquiry, Balzan explained to the court why police had fed misleading information to potential leaks speaking to the foreign press.

The case was filed against him by John Muscat, brother of The Shift editor Caroline Muscat, who at one point was a court expert to Vella.
In the article, it was stated that highly-placed officials working on the murder investigation had fed inaccurate information to court experts, in a bid to weed out those leaking information to reporters and politicians.

Returning to the witness stand this morning, Balzan clarified a number of points. “The gist of the article published by MaltaToday on 21 October 2018 was that the allegation that minister Chris Cardona had been with one of the executors of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia in the Siggiewi square near Ferdinand’s bar, was an invention,” he said, explaining that the police found out about this through an article published on Italian newspaper La Repubblica in April 2019.

“When the police went to collect CCTV they found out that court experts had already collected the tapes,” he went on.

“The police had complained about the leaks to the inquiring magistrate, protesting that they should have been informed about the investigations into Cardona.”

The Malta Independent had later confirmed that alleged fuel smuggler Pierre Darmanin had not spoken to Cardona as reported in La Repubblica, but despite this, the press were painting the picture indirectly that Cardona was the mastermind in the Caruana Galizia assassination, Balzan said.

“At no point did I say who leaked the information, only that the police had said there were leaks,” Balzan added from the witness stand.
In hindsight, he added, it was odd that in this case there was no leak from Castille about Cardona not featuring in CCTV footage of Ferdinand’s Bar, “as this would have helped dissipate the cloud of suspicion hanging over the former minister.”

“That CCTV didn’t show anything you would expect to be leaked. But it was not leaked. There should have been a denial; and there was none.”

This made sense in the light of later revelations, he said.

“The story I wrote about Cardona was based on inquiries I made with the police. Normally something like this could have come out from Castille… in all those nine months, you could expect a leak from there to defend Cardona. This never happened. Today it is clear as to why,” Balzan said, without referring to an alleged frame-up in which the prime minister’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri is said to have attempted to pin the assassination of Caruana Galizia on Cardona.

Cross-examined by lawyer Joe Zammit Maempel, Balzan named Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi as the leak to La Repubblica.
Balzan also told the court, that he never wrote that John Muscat – the brother of Caroline Muscat – that he had leaked to The Shift.

“In the article I only mention facts. Muscat is referred to as a court expert in the article, but I’m sorry that’s not the case: had I known that he was appointed an expert incorrectly at the time, I would have written it too.”
Lawyer Veronique Dalli is appearing for Balzan, whilst lawyer Joseph Zammit Maempel is counsel to Muscat.

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