Mr. Strickland has kindly submitted to the blog an update on the Times of Malta case.We present it here in the complete text, without any edits or changes:
The Maltese Legal System is somewhat arcane and normally only allocates 30 minutes max for each hearing of a civil court case before putting off the case for a further 3/4 months time for another short hearing. Cases can takes years - which is attritious for the plaintiffs involved and some cases have even been going on over 40 years.
However, in my particular court case, (regarding the improper transfer of the majority shareholding of Malta's leading media group to an entity which cannot even own the shares), we now have a new Judge Franco Depasquale appointed. We understand this Judge is determined to get cases heard and decided within five years from start to finish. This is good as our shares case has been in Court for six years already since it was first filed in 2015.
Furthermore any judgment can be appealed, as happened with my first court case (regarding the self serving interpretation of my Aunt's will by her executors). This case was filed in 2010, decided in 2018 and appealed in 2018. The first appeal hearing of this case is not expected until 2024 at the earliest because of the worsening backlog of court cases. This situation can also be manipulated by unscrupulous parties as appeals can be filed without any valid grounds ever being given.
COVID has not helped the system in Malta but, when our solicitors tried to cancel my shares case hearing last week (because of an upsurge of COVID infections in Malta), we insisted on it being held remotely, by zoom, and luckily the Judge granted this facility. We hope to get a decision on this case within a year or two as we have effectively closed our evidence and are awaiting any evidence from the defense but we do not believe they can possibly produce anything to support their illegal transfer of the majority shareholding of the newspaper group. We are also awaiting copies of evidence submitted to Court by the MFSA (Malta Financial Services Authority) last week, at our request.
UK and European observers of this case have noted that if this case had been heard in the UK, I have been told that it would have been decided in a single sitting and the shares awarded to me (as the sole heir of my Aunt), because there has never been any valid instrument of transfer produced and The Strickland Foundation, as a 'body corporate', cannot own any shares in Allied Newspapers Ltd. This is because Allied Newspapers Ltd, as a family company (known as a private exempt company in Malta), has the standard restrictions in its Company Articles restricting shareholders to private individuals and disallowing any 'body corporate' from owning shares. These articles cannot be changed without the approval of all of the shareholders, including myself. This would have been an open and shut case in the UK. Hopefully the judge in Malta will come to the same conclusion.
Until the outcome of the shares case is known, effective control of the major media group in Malta currently rests with the four person council of The Strickland Foundation which excludes any Strickland but includes, perversely, a politically exposed person (PEP) who is a serving minister with the political opposition in Malta. As such he should be nowhere near any media group, for obvious reasons, especially one that built its reputation on being independent from political parties. This 'undue influence' had been exercised both by his father before him (also a PEP), and now by himself, ever since my Aunt's death 30 years ago. In the last eight years the newspaper group has also been the subject of a succession of fraud and money laundering allegations against three of its managing directors all appointed by these PEPs. This has left the paper my family founded and ran, until my aunt's death, a shadow of its former self, and brings into question its entire reputation for independence.
This is a major Maltese scandal that you rarely hear about in newspapers in Malta and certainly never in our family papers. Malta is a small island and only has two dominant political parties. If the Media is the fourth pillar of democracy then this self censorship is at risk of undermining our fragile democracy in Malta.