Times of Malta founder's nephew insists Mabel Strickland files are his

Nephew and sole heir of Times of Malta founder Mabel Strickland says he is legitimate owner of files held by the de Marcos, Ganados and Strickland Foundation which throw light on intentions for her succession

Robert Hornyold Strickland
Robert Hornyold Strickland

Robert Hornyold Strickland – nephew and confidant of Times of Malta founder Mabel Strickland – is insisting that the files which belonged to his late aunt and show the original intentions for her succession and legacy belong to him. 

This week, lawyers for the Strickland Foundation continued to resist efforts by Mabel Strickland’s heir to have a court order them to exhibit documents and files relating to the foundation, as the acrimonious battle between the Stricklands and the Strickland Foundation continued.

In comments to MaltaToday, Hornyold Strickland said “The files of my Aunt Mabel Strickland, whose sole heir I am, unfortunately, are currently in the possession of the Strickland Foundation, the de Marco family and the Ganado family, yet in law these personal and Strickland family files belong to me. Despite this, for reasons unknown, I have been denied access to these files since my Aunt died 28 years ago.”

Hornyold Strickland filed a suit against the executors of Strickland’s estate – including the incumbent chairman of the Strickland Foundation and a director of Allied Newspapers Joseph Ganado – claiming that his late aunt’s will was changed by her testamentary executors, the late Prof. Guido de Marco and Joseph Ganado in 1979 while he was living in Britain.

Lawyer Mario de Marco, son of Guido de Marco, testified in court that the files did exist but protested that he was not legally in control of them, as they had been inherited by his mother, who is the late professor’s legal heir. 

The Foundation’s lawyer, Richard Camilleri argued that it would “create a dangerous precedent if we were made to reveal files relating to deceased lawyers.”

Speaking to MaltaToday, Hornyold Strickland said:

“If the files are therefore in the possession of Mario de Marco’s mother, then it has to be in the interests of all parties, for Mario de Marco to persuade his mother to return them all immediately. Instead he resisted offering up any files; his reaction was not unexpected, but surprising given that he always professes that transparency is paramount.”

Underlining that his aunt’s legal files relate to the drafting of her final will and the concurrent setting up of the Strickland Foundation in 1979, when he was not able to be in Malta, he said “Guido de Marco was paid for his services at the time and these files, on my aunt’s death should have been passed over to me – 28 years ago.”    

He said that after his aunt’s death, the Strickland Foundation took possession of all the Strickland files, without even consulting him. 

“Unfortunately, as has transpired, there were several ambiguities in my aunt’s revised will, and the executors and I disagree on the interpretation of it. Despite years trying to find an amicable solution with them, I have to resort to the courts so as to establish, correctly, my aunt’s exact intentions. Naturally this process requires access to much contemporaneous correspondence from my aunt with regard to her planning and thinking at that time for both her heir and her Strickland Foundation. As is well known, my aunt set up the Strickland Foundation for ‘herself and her heirs in perpetuity’ yet her heir has never been invited to join the Council of the Strickland Foundation. I remained Mabel’s sole heir from the time I was first chosen, and she died with my photo always by her bed.”

Hornyold Strickland added that apart from the files that were in his aunt’s possession when she died, the only files he is seeking from the Strickland Foundation are those relating to the drafting of the final will and the setting up of the Strickland Foundation.   

“I am legally entitled to these papers by virtue of being her sole heir,” he said. 

Insisting that the files be returned to him in their original state, Hornyold Strickland said “when I walked into court, it was as if it was David against Goliath, with a posse of powerful people intent on resisting, at all costs, my perfectly reasonable request to the courts for files that belong to me to be passed over, and offer full transparency. Instead I met with a group of people intent on pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes, determined to hide everything. There is an old mantra, if you have nothing to hide, then hide nothing.”