A member of Yorgen Fenech’s legal team attempted to hand over hundreds of euros to a Times of Malta journalist at the end of a meeting in Valletta on Monday.
Journalist Ivan Martin rejected between two and four €500 notes when they were physically handed to him by lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran towards the end of a meeting.
The lawyer is one of the team defending the businessman charged with complicity in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia in October 2017.
Martin said that at the end of the 20-minute meeting in Valletta, also attended by lawyer Charles Mercieca, Caruana Curran handed over the folded €500 notes. Caruana Curran has admitted that “remuneration was offered”.
Martin said: “I cannot be sure how many notes he handed as I didn't unfold them. I handed them back to him and told him I couldn't accept payment. I also informed them that I only get paid by Times of Malta, and that he should not do that again going forward.”
He said Caruana Curran told him that he meant no disrespect and he only offered the money because he had never dealt with a journalist before.
“He told me time costs money. But I did not accept the money and the meeting ended there,” said Martin, who immediately informed Times of Malta news editor Diana Cacciottolo of the incident.
Contacted via phone for an explanation of the cash offer, the lawyer said he was in a meeting and follow-up calls initially went unanswered.
In a lengthy statement on Monday night, Caruana Curran said: “Ivan Martin led us to understand that we could use his services to help neutralise the bias in the reporting in the media. We are obviously not privy to his contract or terms of employment within the 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.”
It is very serious, especially when the lawyers are dealing with one of the most delicate criminal cases this country has ever seen
Martin has been employed as a full-time journalist with Times of Malta since 2013 and is one of the most high-profile reporters in the country.
Times of Malta editor-in-chief Herman Grech said: “We believe it is unethical and fundamentally wrong for any lawyer to offer cash to journalists. It becomes very serious when the lawyers are dealing with one of the most delicate criminal cases this country has ever seen.
“The integrity of our journalism is as important as that of protecting our sources. We will let our readers decide to judge our track record on reporting the Daphne Caruana Galizia case.”
Caruana Curran’s reply in full
1. It was Ivan Martin who approached the defence team, ostensibly to open a line of communication with the defence. We welcomed this opportunity, considering that the media, in particular the ToM, has been consistently biased in it’s reporting of the case.
[Martin says he was first approached by Charles Mercieca to meet to discuss the case. Fenech’s defence team has never spoken to Times of Malta editors about their concerns about unfair reporting.]
2. In the course of our various conversations he expressed the opinion that the ToM was totally under the control of the Caruana Galizia family and that any article which could even remotely be taken to be in favour of Yorgen Fenech was immediately censored, withdrawn or buried.
[Martin denies this. Neither the Caruana Galizia family nor any other person or organisation sets the editorial policy of Times of Malta.]
3. He mentioned Jason Azzopardi as constantly badgering him even till this very morning, the 2nd of November and quizzing him about the movements or contacts with the defence.
[Martin told Fenech’s defence team that he believed the information had been leaked from their office, based on a conversation he had with Azzopardi.]
4. Ivan Martin kept asking for what we know about certain people supposedly involved in the case. It soon became very clear that what he wanted was dirt on Arthur Azzopardi, the Agius family and the ex-commissioner of Police Lawrence Cutajar. However, he markedly did not ask about more high-profile individuals said to be involved in the case.
[Martin says Fenech’s defence team offered him information about certain individuals and that he asked for more details about their claims.]
5. Ivan Martin also said that he has sources within the Maltese Secret Service. By way of example, he mentioned particularly the call made between Edwin Brincat (il-Ġojja) and ex-commissioner Cutajar which was discovered through questions put by the defence to Inspector Arnaud. Ivan Martin added that according to him the MSS were not happy with the headway we were making in the case especially on discovering certain evidence which the prosecution wanted to keep hidden.
[Times of Malta journalists do not disclose their sources. Fenech’s defence team make assumptions about Martin’s sources, based on a discussion they initiated about how the MSS might react to a report about the call between Cutajar and Brincat.]
6. The fact that there was no story by the media about this instance, was discussed as another example of the bias in the media reporting.
[Times of Malta bases its reporting on public interest. Fenech’s defence team never flagged their concerns to Times of Malta previously.]
7. On Saturday the 31st of October Ivan Martin sent an unsolicited draft of an article alleging corruption by the ex-commissioner Cutajar which article was based on evidence that was tendered in court but ignored by journalists as it did not fit into the agenda.
[The text sent to Fenech’s team was sent to confirm details of information which Fenech’s legal team had provided during a previous meeting. All articles are subject to senior editorial approval prior to publication.]
8. He gave us the impression he wanted to help our client’s cause for fair media coverage.
[Times of Malta journalists are trained to seek all sides of a story.]
9. Ivan Martin led us to understand that objective reporting and articles were impossible within the media. He led us to understand that we could use his services to help neutralise the bias in the reporting in the media. We are obviously not privy to his contract or terms of employment within the 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.
[Martin has been a full-time Times of Malta journalist since 2013 and has regularly reported on the Daphne Caruana Galizia case. He describes himself online as a ‘Times of Malta reporter’ and Fenech’s legal team has itself linked meeting Martin to Times of Malta reporting. Times of Malta does not accept payment for news stories and Martin acted correctly by immediately informing his news editor about Caruana Curran’s offer of cash.]
10. We now realise that Ivan Martin’s approach was only a ploy to benefit whoever is pulling his strings; the person/s who risk being exposed in the course of Yorgen Fenech’s defence.
[This is a ludicrous claim that is not borne out by the fact which Caruana Curran has acknowledged: that a Times of Malta journalist was offered money, unsolicited, by a lawyer in a high-profile murder case. Martin has put himself at great personal risk by reporting developments on the murder of a journalist and other stories. He has also shown his integrity through his response to the offer of cash for coverage.]