London lawyers pursue the dead
Daphne Caruana Galizia, Issue 1469
Daphne Caruana Galizia, the murdered writer and anti-corruption campaigner, whose family is still fighting 26 libel actions
MORE from Malta, once a tourist destination but now more famed for its online gamblers, offshore bankers, rich Russians (see Eye 1468), political assassins and… English libel lawyers.

Six months ago a car bomb killed Daphne Caruana Galizia, the journalist who broke the story that the Panama Papers would expose the shady dealings of Maltese politicians. Her son Matthew saw the car explode and ran towards it in a vain attempt to save his mother.

The family has had no peace since; and not only because pro-government thugs keep vandalising the makeshift memorial to Daphne outside Valletta cathedral. Malta inherited English libel law from the British empire, and government ministers and their wealthy backers make full use of its insistence that, contrary to natural justice, the burden of proof lies on the defendant.

Law firms pile in
To make it nastier, you can’t escape libel actions in Malta even when you’ve been murdered. “We have to fight 26 outstanding libel actions against my mother,” Matthew Caruana Galizia told the Eye. “At least I think it is 26 – I’ve lost count.”

With such enticing opportunities for fees, English law firms piled in. Daphne had alleged that the prime minister’s wife was the ultimate beneficiary of funds moved through Pilatus, a Maltese private bank. When the Malta Independent followed up her story it received a threatening letter from London law firm Schillings.

It was “grossly defamatory” to suggest Pilatus was engaged in money laundering, Schillings thundered. And to even imply that Pilatus chairman Ali Sadr “dishonestly concealed and destroyed incriminating documents” linking Azerbaijan with the Maltese elite was a “wholly untrue” attack on a “successful businessman”. “Our clients are unquestionably entitled to issue defamation claims against you here.” Resistance would be “futile”.

‘Harassing letters’
In March this year, Ali Sadr was then arrested in the US on six counts of evading sanctions on Iran. In April the Daphne Project, an international journalistic collaboration, showed that a network of more than 50 companies and trusts secretly owned by Azerbaijan’s oil-rich elite used accounts at Pilatus to move millions around Europe.

Daphne also wrote about receiving “harassing letters from Mishcon de Reya in London” that threatened “to ruin me financially in a London court”. Letters from Mishcon, seen by the Eye, order her to remove articles discussing the lucrative sale of Maltese passports and the EU citizenship that goes with them.

Matthew Caruana Galizia told the Eye he’d seen that Mishcon’s Anthony Julius sits on the board of English PEN, which defends the rights of dissident authors and has made heart-rending protests about Daphne Caruana Galizia’s “brutal” assassination. “Yet Mishcon was quite happy to threaten my mother,” he continued. “Until 2016, no Maltese publications received legal threats from UK firms. The publication of Panama Papers marked a turning point of abuse against journalists, including my mother.”

Although three men have been charged with her murder, police and politicians have shown no interest in who the alleged killers were working for.


More top stories in the latest issue:

Readers who followed our coverage of Amber Rudd’s City career in Eyes 1428-31 won’t have been a bit surprised by her achievements at the Home Office.

Why a US move to license a cannabis-based drug banned in the UK is good news for the husbands of UK drugs minister Victoria Atkins and Theresa May.

Nigel Farage and Ukip leader Gerard Batten slam UK state institutions and look to Europe to help a dying toddler. Shome mishtake, shurely?

As PFI spending falls to 4% of annual public investment, the Treasury seems finally to have twigged that the private finance initiative is a waste of money.

Andrew Mitchell’s anti-money-laundering bill amendment excludes tax haven crown dependencies close to home. Just as well for his outside employers!

Eunoia Technologies, the spin-off company of SCL/Cambridge Analytica ‘whistleblower’ Christopher Wylie, and another row about data use.

Nooks and Corners on how grade II-listed Hammersmith Bridge in west London has been left to moulder by officialdom.

How the NHS still allows ‘cowboy’ private parking company Smart Parking and others to harvest money from vulnerable patients.

As another UN peacekeeper dies in Timbuktu, the UN mission is perilously caught in the battle between jihadis, separatists and Mali’s own military.

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29th May 2018
In This Issue private eye
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Private Eye Issue 1468