A UK based law firm which had “harassed” murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is being investigated by regulators who have spent at least two years looking into the workings of the firm.
Mishcon de Reya was the law firm engaged by Henley & Partners, the company entrusted by disgraced Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to operate the cash-for-passports scheme, to threaten the journalist with libel suits in the UK.
The journalist had revealed correspondence between Henley & Partners and Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri, then Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and Identity Malta chief Jonathan Cardona in which they had approved legal action against her.
In a meeting Henley and Partners had with the European Parliament’s delegation in 2018, investigating the rule of law in Malta, representatives of the cash-for-passports concessionaires had said they only sue Maltese journalists if they get an ‘OK’ from the government.
Caruana Galizia has said in an email to Henley & Partners dated 12 May 2017: “I am extremely annoyed at your lawyers’ high-handed attitude and more than annoyed at the fact that a company feels itself empowered to sell a country’s citizenship against the will of the citizens of that country and by underhand agreement with a government that does not have an electoral mandate for it and then has the sheer brass neck to begin going after journalists and real citizens of that country who object to it,”
The Guardian is reporting that the firm is currently under the lens of the Solicitors Regulation Authority which is conducting a complex investigation involving forensic and anti-money laundering investigators.
The investigation has been ongoing since 2017 when the SRA received separate reports on a series of allegations about the law firm.
The reports were related to an investigation into the Newcastle United tax evasion on player transfers case and on the firm’s work for clients connected to an elaborate €100 million fraud.
Caruana Galizia’s family had accused the law firm of harassment, intimidation and for attempting to cripple her financially by threatening to sue her in the UK.
By the time she was assassinated, the journalist was facing over 40 defamation lawsuits from businessmen and politicians.
The libel cases against Caruana Galizia have drawn attention to how wealthy individuals threaten costly legal action in the UK in an attempt to silence journalist, known as SLAPP lawsuits.
The Guardian said, in an article on Thursday, that the law firm has grown rapidly over the past decade. It has in the past represented high profile clients such as Princess Diana in the 1990s.
Forensic investigations would require firms to produce financial records for inspection often at short notice. Should the SRA find something irregular, it can sanction the firm or refer it to the solicitors’ disciplinary tribunal which can then issue suspensions and fines.
In February 2019, The Shift had reported that Mishcon de Reya solicitors, together with Henley and Partners, were among the founding members of the Investment Migration Council, an association for investor immigration and citizenship by investment.