A lawyer for the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia has called for action against Yorgen Fenech’s defence team for offering cash to a Times of Malta journalist.

Ivan Martin rejected a set of folded €500 notes handed to him by lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran after a 20-minute meeting on Monday. 

Caruana Curran is one of the defence team representing Fenech, who stands accused of conspiring to murder Caruana Galizia in a car bomb in October 2017.

Politicians, media activists and the Caruana Galizia family have spoken out against what Caruana Curran described as “remuneration” for “services to help neutralize the bias in the reporting in the media”.

Jason Azzopardi, lawyer for the family, called for the Commission for the Administration of Justice to take “severe steps”.

The Commission is a Constitutional body responsible for the workings of the courts and the behaviour of judges, magistrates lawyers and legal procurators and has the power to discipline lawyers.  

Fellow lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia praised Times of Malta and Ivan Martin for revealing the attempted payment.

“Quality journalism does not succumb to Las Vegas Petrus style lavishness," she said, referring to two other occasions when Fenech had spent money on public officials. Both those incidents were exclusively revealed by Times of Malta. 

Comodini Cachia continued: "In a culture of power-wielding persons accepting lavish gifts, it had to be a newsroom and journalist to show courage and high moral ground needed to stand up to corruption. Truth isn’t bought.”

Sylvana Debono, President of the Institute of Maltese Journalists, highlighted that the incident emerged the day after the International day to end Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

“The IĠM cannot condemn sufficiently such action. The fact that someone felt free enough to make bold with such a step is extremely concerning for the IĠM in the current political scenario in Malta.”

In a statement issued later the IĠM applauded Martin for his handling of the situation and pointed out that bribery and accepting a bribe is a criminal act.

"The fact that an experienced defence lawyer mis-read the journalist's outreach is serious enough in itself. To add to that a flagrant assumption that for the journalist to do his work, he needed a bribe speaks volumes on the kind of society we are living in today."

Caruana Galizia’s three sons, Andrew, Matthew and Paul all spoke out against the lawyer’s behaviour. 

Andrew Caruana Galizia said: “A defence lawyer of the man charged with conspiring to assassinate my mother admitted to offering a bundle of €500 notes to a journalist for favourable coverage of his client. Just imagine what they might be offering to public officials and witnesses.”

In a lengthy statement to Times of Malta, Caruana Curran said the defence team was not privy to the journalist's contract or terms of employment within Times of Malta.

"It was only after he was offered remuneration for his services, that he mentioned that he was full time with the Times of Malta."

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