The PM’s Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri and Malcolm Scerri have won a libel case against The Malta Independent over an article which appeared on 8 May, 2016 entitled Panama Papers: HSBC investigation expected into alleged fraudulent documents vouching for Keith Schembri and Malcolm Scerri, which was also published on the newspaper’s website.
The article had alleged that an investigation was underway at HSBC over false documents which involved the company Kasco. The Court, presided over by Magistrate Francesco Depasquale, heard that the article had been based on a blog post published two days before on Daphne Caruana Galizia’s website.
The Court noted that Pierre Portelli, who at the time was one of the editors, had been informed by an HSBC bank official that the story published by Mrs Caruana Galizia had been built on an administrative mistake by the bank. Despite the fact that the article had not carried a byline, the Court heard that Portelli had contacted an official at the bank and that the information had been passed on to him.
In Court, it was also stated that the newspaper published comments on its website which were libelous and defamatory towards Keith Schembri.
The Court found the newspaper guilty of libel and ordered the editor of The Malta Independent David Lindsay, the editor of the website, Stephen Calleja, as well as Pierre Portelli to pay €5,000.