Former Minister Louis Galea has won €5,000 in compensation over a libel case that he instituted 18 years ago and which has been pending judgment for 11 years.
The libel suit was filed in 1997 by the former Nationalist Cabinet minister against Etienne St John and Felix Agius, former head of news at Labour’s One TV and One Radio respectively, over allegations in various news bulletins and adverts on a diary of foreigner Ciro Del Negro, which mentioned people who had been involved in criminal activities related to drug trafficking.
In the diary, which was later published in the form of a book, it was alleged that drugs were being imported into Malta through the Ministerial Lounge when government delegations were returning to Malta.
Mr Justice Joseph Micallef ruled that the broadcasts were defamatory as they were alleging that Dr Galea was involved in a criminal ring when it was not true. He also noted that the broadcasts were "systematic" in the run-up to the publication of the book in question. Moreover, the broadcasts continued despite a public denial issued by Dr Galea.
He therefore ordered Mr St John and Mr Agius to pay Dr Galea €5,000 in damages.
The libel case was mentioned by Justice Minister Owen Bonnici in Parliament last year as the classic example of court delays after he noted that the case was first put off for judgment in May 2004 and was then put off for 33 consecutive times until Mr Justice Micallef finally handed down his sentence.
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