Simon Busuttil has been awarded €7,000 in libel damages after winning five cases he had instituted against l-Orizzont, it-Torċa, One Radio and One Television.
It had been claimed that he somehow bribed the Gaffarena family to strike out against former Nationalist Party minister John Dalli.
The first story appeared on on it-Torċa on August 2 2015, with related articles subsequently published on l-Orizzont and Labour Party news organ One News.
Josef Caruana, at the time the editor of l-Orizzont, had allegedly based his story on information supplied by an anonymous source and subsequently confirmed by Mr Gaffarena, senior, when contacted by the paper.
The news outlets alleged that Dr Busuttil had met Joseph and Marco Gaffarena before the 2013 general election at PN headquarters and told them they could receive a petrol station permit, which the Gaffarena family had long been struggling to obtain, in exchange for a bribe.
The meeting had allegedly been set up by former PN minister Joe Cassar who, when testifying in the course of the ensuing libel proceedings, had been “consistent in his testimony”, the court observed.
“Without any hesitation….. the version of facts as supplied by Dr Joseph Cassar was much more credible and true than that given by Joseph and Marco Gaffarena,” Magistrate Francesco Depasquale declared.
It appeared that father and son had not adequately prepared themselves before testifying in open court, having had no such problem when making their affidavit, drawn up and signed by their legal counsel, the court went on.
On the basis of all evidence put forward, the court concluded that the story supplied by Joseph and Marco Gaffarena was dictated by “the hatred which they nurtured towards Dr Simon Busuttil and the PN ….on account of the fact that the latter refused to accommodate them by issuing the MEPA permit for their petrol station, which had been shut down when an extra storey had been constructed in breach of the permit.”
After having allegedly forked out some €20,000 to the PN a few weeks before the said meeting, the Gaffarenas expected to receive the permit. When this was not granted, they were prepared to make false allegations, even under oath, the court observed.
The basis of this story was not true and was “totally contradicted” by Dr Busuttil and Dr Cassar who had fixed the meeting and was personally present on the day, the court concluded, awarding a total of €7,000 in libel damages.
Lawyer Peter Fenech was counsel to Dr Busuttil.
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