The Maltese government can boast of the dubious honour of having shared the same, high profile reputation laundering firm used by Russian oligarchs who sought to silence further investigation of the wealth they hid in ultra finance hubs like London.
Carter Ruck, used by the Maltese government to manage fallout related to journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, is the same firm used by at least one sanctioned Russian oligarch in the UK.
In the same way oligarchs used firms like Carter Ruck to suppress information in the public domain, the Maltese government had sought to oppose mounting questions about their role in facilitating the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Billionaire and Kremlin ally Gennady Timchenko, founder of Russian private investment firm Volga Group, was recently sanctioned by the UK, meaning all of his assets in the country are frozen and that Timchenko is no longer allowed to travel there.
Timchenko, along with Russian oil giants Rosneft, had previously used Carter Ruck’s services, the same firm that was used by disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat when faced with pre-publication questions related to the publication of a book authored by Manuel Delia, Carlo Bonini and John Sweeney titled ‘Murder on the Malta Express’.
Carter Ruck is so notorious for its highly litigious strategies that it was one of three awardees for “bully lawyers of the year” award by the European Coalition Against SLAPPs (CASE) in 2021.
True to form, Carter Ruck had sent a pre-emptive letter to the three authors of the book ‘Murder on the Malta Express’, arguing that their claims were “highly defamatory” and that the individuals mentioned in the book centred largely around the assassination of Caruana Galizia “reserved all their rights in relation to the publication and repetition of any allegation that is defamatory and untrue”.
Muscat was also caught out having a secretive meeting with Carter Ruck shortly after in January 2020 – Muscat had met Saad Djebbar, an international lawyer affiliated with the firm, in the hotel lobby of Corinthia in London. The Shift also documented another lawyer leaving the same hotel through a side entrance during a trip the Muscats had in London with Diane Izzo and Karl Izzo, a close friend of the Mucscats who was appointed ambassador to Montenegro while a corrupt deal on a wind farm was being sealed.
The UK is facing a period of inward scrutiny following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine given that the country has been functioning as a target destination for billions of pounds worth of Russian money since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The UK’s ruling conservative party faces its own reckoning with its links with Russian backchannel diplomats who allegedly influenced the 2016 US presidential elections and the Brexit referendum. One of the party’s own MPs, Bob Seely, turned his attention towards reputation laundering firms used by wealthy Russians to stifle investigative reporting.
On 1 March, during one of several ongoing parliamentary debates on the topic of reputation laundering firms in the UK, Seely pointed towards representatives from Carter Ruck, CMS, Harbottle & Lewis and barrister Hugh Tomlinson as examples of “amoral” solicitors who have made millions from providing their services to Russian oligarchs.
Reputation laundering firms, Seely argued, allow “kleptocrats, criminals and oligarchs” to intimidate the free press, often forcing them to incur costs far beyond what they can afford in legal procedures based on often flimsy accusations.
International press organisations have repeatedly highlighted how, the UK in particular, is used as a staging ground for vexatious libel suits to kill journalists’ stories.