Court orders ex-minister's aide to pay fine

13 May 2024

Former ministerial aide Joseph Gerada has been penalised by the court for requesting crippling precautionary warrants against Daphne Caruana Galizia in connection with two libel suits. Gerada had later dropped the libel cases without having presented a single piece of evidence.

The cases concerned Daphne Caruana Galizia’s report that Joseph Gerada had accompanied then Minister for the Economy, Chris Cardona, to a brothel when they were in Germany on official government business. Gerada and Cardona filed two libel cases each, and had Daphne’s bank account frozen. The libel cases were inherited by Daphne’s heirs after her murder.

In the judgement delivered on 8 May 2024, the court declared that the evidence showed Gerada had acted impulsively when he sued for libel because he had no evidence to support his claims. His request for precautionary warrants to block funds in Daphne’s bank account to secure eventual damages in his libel suits was “unprecedented in Maltese legal history”, raising questions about proportionality in relation to the right to freedom of expression.

The court said Gerada knew that “he crossed a line that no one had ever dared cross” and that he evidently “abused of the judicial system” when requesting the precautionary warrants and that his actions were meant to have “a chilling effect” not only on Caruana Galizia but on all journalists. Gerada’s actions triggered such debate that the law was amended in 2018 to prohibit such precautionary warrants in relation to libel suits.

Gerada was ordered to pay a penalty of €8,000 for the malicious garnishees, plus a further €326 in damages. Daphne’s heirs have filed an appeal against a judgement in a parallel case concerning Cardona.