[WATCH] Satabank owner sues MP Jason Azzopardi in Bulgarian court over speech in House

Satabank licence had been withdrawn and bank was placed under control, after millions of criminal proceeds were suspected of having passed through the St Julian’s bank

During a Facebook live video, PN MP Jason Azzopardi said he has been informed that the owner of Satabank, Christo Giorgiev is suing him for libel, over a speech he had made in parliament.

Azzopardi showed an envelope he received from Bulgaria, addressed to him in parliament from the district court of Varna. In it, Azzopardi is informed that the owner of Satabank, Christo Giorgiev is suing him 50,000 Bulgarian Levs, over a speech he had made in parliament.

Azzopardi had claimed that Georgiev was under investigation over money laundering and corruption and that he was close to the Russian mafia.

In October 2019, the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) had ordered the bank to stop its operations and the European Central Bank had taken away its licence. Millions of criminal proceeds were suspected of having passed through the St Julian’s bank.

READ MORE: Satabank licence withdrawn after bank placed under control

Azzopardi remarked that this is a first for a Maltese politician, to be sued for libel in a foreign court, and according to him, is serving as a ‘warning’ for him and others. According to Azzopardi this is the first time that a European politican has faced libel proceedings for a discourse made in national parliament.

He noted that similar SLAPP proceedings had been opened against the Times of Malta, Manuel Delia and the late Daphne Caruana Galizia in the past.

SLAPPs are Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation and are used to silence and harass critics by forcing them to spend money to defend these baseless suits.

“Let’s reflect on the threat that journalism is facing in Malta, where there are some that are risking their lives for their work,” said Azzopardi. He noted that the recommendations of the public inquiry emphasised the need to safeguard journalism and that PM Robert Abela is yet to implement them.

Azzopardi said that he is resilient and will not be bullied by anyone.


The Nationalist Party shows solidarity with Azzopardi and calls for anti-SLAPP legislation

The Nationalist Party expressed solidarity with Jason Azzopardi and other journalists, who have or are facing SLAPP suits.

“This was yet another instance of SLAPP tactics that Malta needed to legislate against, especially to protect journalists,” said the PN.

It added the PM Abela has not implemented the recommendations from the Caruana Galizia public inquiry, for the protection of journalists against SLAPP suits.

PN noted that Azzopardi had tabled a Private Members Bill on how to tackle SLAPP cases, but it was never discussed in Parliament.