Strickland legal battle with Times newspaper’s foundation goes online

Website sheds complete light on ongoing tussle between Allied’s 78% owner – the Strickland Foundation – and second largest shareholder Robert Hornyold Strickland

Robert Hornyold-Strickland
Robert Hornyold-Strickland

A cache of documents detailing the trials and tribulations of the Strickland family and their ongoing battle with the Strickland Foundation, the largest shareholder in Allied Newspapers, has gone online.

The website includes a comprehensive collection of documents detailing the saga of Mabel Strickland’s heir, Robert Hornyold-Strickland, the second largest shareholder in Allied Newspapers.

Hornyold-Strickland insists his late aunt – daughter of Lord Gerald Strickland – was persuaded to change her will in 1979 by her testamentary executors, the late Prof. Guido de Marco and Prof. Joseph Ganado, while he was living in England.

But now Hornyold-Strickland has been engaged in a court battle with their sons – the Nationalist MP Mario de Marco and Ganado Advocates partner Max Ganado – to release Strickland’s legal files from their possesion, which he says will prove that his aunt had intended him to be the rightful owner of the Foundation’s 78% shareholding in Allied Newspapers.

The Court of Appeal has overturned an earlier decision by the courts on the refusal by the Strickland Foundation, to release the documents, saying that all files passed on to the Foundation must be disclosed to the courts and to the heir.

Hornyold-Strickland wants the 78% majority shareholding returned to the estate, claiming that Mabel Strickland’s key assets were improperly diverted into the control of De Marco and Ganado.

Hornyold-Strickland insists that files relating to an improper transfer in 2010 of the majority shareholding held in Allied Newspapers by the two men, to the Strickland Foundation, are also being withheld. These would include a valid instrument of transfer, and details of dividend payments on those shares since Strickland’s death.

The Foundation has previously argued that the files could not be handed over to the heir because of legal privilege the advocates owed to the deceased client.

But the Court of Appeal ruled that “contrary to a common misconception, the relationship of professional confidentiality is intended not to protect lawyers but to protect their clients only.”

The Court of Appeal said that client privilege could not be invoked in matters of inheritance and that the sole heir effectively stepped into the shoes of Mabel Strickland upon her death – making the heir ‘the client’, and therefore within his rights to request full disclosure of all the family documents withheld by the defendants.

In her will, Strickland also bequeathed her Villa Parisio in Lija to the Foundation and granted Hornyold Strickland “the right of use and habitation of the guests rooms with bathroom and study at Villa Parisio, provided that the enjoyment of such right shall in no way intefere with the work of the foundation.”

But Hornyold Strickland insists that his rights extend to all the rooms in the villa and wants the court to order the Foundation to grant him possession of all these rooms. The Foundation claims the will limits him to “the guests rooms with bathroom and study at Villa Parisio provided that the enjoyment of such right shall in no way intefere with the work of the foundation.”

In addition to this clause, the heirs also say Strickland left an instruction to the Foundation council members that they also had the right to transfer the seat of the Foundation to anywhere else in Malta.

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