Strickland Foundation council member Mario De Marco has responded to calls for his resignation by Robert Hornyold-Strickland, the nephew to the newspaper groups’ founder Mabel Strickland, describing it as a cheap shot stemming from a long-standing feud.
Allied Newspapers chairman Paul Mercieca also expressed his disappointment at the timing of the statement, describing it as “totally inappropriate given the circumstances”.
Hornyold-Strickland has said that he was seeking legal advice on how to recoup €5.5 million that has allegedly been defrauded from the newspaper group his aunt built.
He also demanded that everyone responsible be held accountable, especially Demarco, who he said wields enormous control.
“Unfortunately, Mr Hornyold-Strickland is using the current grave circumstances impacting the Allied organisation at which we are all angered, to take a cheap shot at the Strickland Foundation, my family and myself, because of his long-standing feud with the same,” De Marco said in a statement.
De Marco said that Hornyold-Strickland had “misleadingly left out the fact that he himself had in 2012 seconded the motion presented to the general meeting of the Allied shareholders, for the appointment of Adrian Hillman as Managing Director of Allied Newspapers Ltd and Group Managing Director”.
“The motion was approved unanimously by all the members present, including Robert Horyold-Strickland,” De Marco said, adding that he was not present for this meeting.
He also noted that, “contrary to the impression given”, he was not, and never has been, a director of Allied Newspapers Limited, nor of Progress Press Limited
“I am a member of the Council of Administration of the Strickland Foundation to which I was appointed in July 2009 and I am incidentally one member out of a Council of five members. The Foundation is currently chaired by Judge Giovanni Bonello. Both Mr Hillman and Mr Buhagiar were appointed in their respective positions within Progress Press years before my appointment to the Council of the Strickland Foundation.
“Contrary to the impression that Mr Hornyold Strickland tried to portray, I was not involved as a lawyer in negotiations for the purchase of the machinery that is the subject of current criminal proceedings. It is pertinent to point out that during the time in question, namely between 2008 and 2013, I formed part of the Gonzi Cabinet and did not practise any longer as a lawyer. In any event decisions for the purchase of machinery are in the ordinary course of events matters of a commercial nature that would be taken at the management and administrative level of the respective companies of which I have never formed part,” read De Marco’s statement.
Moreover, De Marco also said that, contrary to the impression given by Hornyold-Strickland, the Stickland family is in fact represented at the Allied board level, by his own brother Henry who has been an active member since 1988.
De Marco accused Hornyold-Strickland of trying to choose which aspects of his aunt’s will to respect and which he prefers to ignore.
“In the process, has spent the last years trying to tarnish the memory of the late Professor Joseph M. Ganado and that of my father who were her legal advisers and whose respective reputations are beyond repute. He moreover conveniently leaves out the fact that the Courts have disagreed with his interpretation of her will and that he has appealed the judgment.”
Statement timing inappropriate – Allied Newspapers
Meanwhile, Allied Newspapers chairman Paul Mercieca said that the matters being referred to by Hornyold-Strickland were “entirely between The Strickland Foundation and himself”.
This issue has, for many years now, been subject to court proceedings,” Mercieca said. “I am very disappointed at the timing of this statement by a minority shareholder and I deem it to be totally inappropriate given the current circumstances.”