I refer to the letter from Robert Hornyold Strickland (The Sunday Times, May 6).

Given the number of inaccuracies and insinuations contained in it, it is pertinent to point out the following facts:-

It is a legal adviser’s role to advise. It is the client’s responsibility to decide. Mabel Strickland was a formidable woman of strong intellect. The validity of her will or any of her deeds has never been questioned or contested.

A legal adviser is bound by strict rules of confidentiality and it is not proper for any legal adviser to disclose the existence or contents of a client’s will to third parties, including prospective heirs. Indeed any such disclosure would be a serious breach of professional duties. The role of the testamentary executor only arises after the death of the testator and is limited to executing the testator’s instructions as written in the will.

In 1979 Ms Strickland established the Strickland Foundation by public deed. The members of the foundation were Ms Strickland , as founder member, Ronald Agius, Prof. Guido de Marco, Anthony Miceli Farrugia, Anthony Montanaro and Prof. Joseph M. Ganado.

The main objects of the foundation were and are “to foster the national interest of Malta and in particular to promote in Malta democratic principles, the observance of human rights and the exercise of the free press” as well as “to uphold the European character of Malta and support Malta’s continued presence in the Commonwealth”.

In terms of the schedule of rules governing the Council of Administration of the Strickland Foundation the qualities necessary for membership are that the person be a Maltese citizen of over 21 years of age and known to share the objects of the Foundation.

These rules were established by Ms Strickland herself in 1979. Ms Strickland passed away on November 21, 1988. Her last will was made in 1979 with an addendum in 1982. In her will Ms Strickland appointed Robert Hornyold Strickland as her sole heir with a legacy left to the Strickland Foundation, and some other legacies left to various individuals.

Ms Strickland appointed in her will Prof. de Marco and Prof. Ganado as her testamentary executors. Given that the will and the deed of the Strickland Foundation were made on the same day it was clearly Ms Strickland’s wish that the same two people carry out two roles – that of testamentary executors and that of members of the Council of Administration of the Strickland Foundation.

Ms Strickland had a large estate. All the immovable property was inherited by Mr Hornyold Strickland with the sole exception of “the property known as Villa Parisio” which she left to the Strickland Foundation by title of legacy with all its contents save for certain items.

In her will Ms Strickland granted him the right of use and habitation “of the guests rooms with bathroom and study at Villa Parisio provided the enjoyment of such right shall in no way interfere with the work of the foundation”.

There are issues relating to the interpretation of certain provisions of the will. These issues are not rare when it comes to the execution of estates which are divided between heirs and legatees. They are currently being determined by the courts, which is the appropriate venue.

The executors perform their duties in accordance with the written instructions expressed in the will and not otherwise.

Membership of the Strickland Foundation is regulated by its statute which, in this case, limits membership to Maltese citizens. Mr Hornyold Strickland is a UK citizen.

Appointments of directors to the Allied Group are made by the shareholders. Among the directors serving on the board of Allied there is Henry Hornyold Strickland, the brother of Robert, who was appointed to represent the Strickland family.

Henry has served on the board for a number of years with the trust and support of the foundation even though the memorandum and articles of association do not provide for any such representative appointment.

The objective of the Strickland Foundation is to promote the public national benefit which Ms Strickland wanted to achieve through the endowment of some assets to the foundation. The protection and preservation of such assets is necessary for the continuing achievement of the public purposes of the foundation.

I wish to state that I have been practising as a lawyer for over 65 years since 1947, I have held various posts, including academic posts in law in the UK and in Malta, and I have never been the subject of such allegations and insinuations.

Even sadder is the fact that Prof. de Marco, whose reputation is well known and is much more public than mine, is sadly no longer with us and so is unable to respond himself.

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