Joseph Muscat has defended his stance that he will only drop a libel suit against assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia if her family publicly “recognises” the findings of the Egrant inquiry.
“I don’t see what the problem is, because no one ever said they distrust the judge who carried out the inquiry [Aaron Bugeja],” the former Prime Minister wrote on Facebook.
“I’m not asking them to issue a statement recognising that Daphne Caruana Galizia was fed false evidence, simply to recognise the inquiry’s conclusions.”
Muscat added that he was willing to accept the findings of the Caruana Galizia public inquiry, “even though it abandoned its terms of references and its conclusions are already clear”.
“I recognise independent inquiries, regardless whether their findings please me or not.”
The former Prime Minister was responding to an affidavit recently filed by the late journalist’s husband Peter Caruana Galizia, in which he confirmed that his family had no intention of accepting his terms and conditions for dropping the case.
“I feel it is relevant to state that [former minister] Konrad Mizzi and [former OPM chief of staff] Keith Schembri had both opened libel suits against my wife in relation to the Panama Papers but dropped them in December 2019 without any transitionary agreement,” Caruana Galizia said.
“Joseph Muscat has offered to do the same bit he wanted to impose conditions on my children and I, and we didn’t feel we were in a position to accept them.”
In 2017, Daphne Caruana Galizia alleged that the company Egrant, whose existence was first revealed in the Panama Papers, was owned by Muscat’s wife Michelle and had received large sums of money from a company owned by Leyla Aliyeva, daughter of Azerbaijan’s ruler Ilham Aliyev.
However, a magisterial inquiry found no proof that Egrant ever belonged to the Muscats or that it had ever received money from Aliyeva. It also found that alleged declarations of trust, which were handed in to the inquiry by former Malta Independent chief editor Pierre Portelli, included forged signatures.
While the Caruana Galizias have never contested the magistrate’s findings, it’s clear that they and Muscat are interpreting the conclusions differently.
While Muscat is arguing that the inquiry prove Egrant never belonged to them, the Caruana Galizias are arguing that it didn’t exclude this possibility – because it didn’t establish who owned Egrant.
“Using Peter Caruana Galizia’s argument, it cannot be excluded that Egrant belongs to him either,” Muscat quipped.