The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) has offered legal support to Times of Malta and blogger Manuel Delia over lawsuits filed by Satabank co-owner Christo Georgiev in Bulgaria. 

ECPMF’s Flutura Kusari said the lawsuits in Bulgaria were a typical case of forum shopping, a tactic that is used by many SLAPP claimants in pursuit of a favourable decision. 

Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, known as SLAPP, are often designed to silence critics by burdening them with the costs of a legal defence in a foreign jurisdiction. 

Georgiev took exception to an article written in January last year titled ‘Billions of euros in Satabank transactions deemed highly suspicious’.

He claims a reference to him having faced international investigations had undermined his personal and professional authority, and caused him psychological and physical discomfort. 

He said in the lawsuit that the reference to an investigation had also caused employees at three of his companies to question if they were working for “some kind of international criminal engaged in money laundering or similar activities, because that was the implication”. 

Satabank was effectively shuttered by authorities in 2018 after a joint FIAU and MFSA inspection flagged serious deficiencies in the bank’s anti-money laundering controls, although it has retained a banking license. 

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