Jean-Philippe Chetcuti Cauchi wins Defamation Case.

Court: Media Executives “misrepresented the facts” in bad faith.

Admin | Published on 21 Nov 2023

Jean Philippe Chetcuti Defamation Case

Chetcuti Cauchi won a high-profile defamation case representing a senior partner, Jean-Philippe Chetcuti, and his immigration agency in a 4-year legal battle against the Chairman of Group M6, a French media group, and against the CEO of the French production company Ligne de Front that produces the investigative series Inquiète Exclusif. This Court of Appeal decision comes after a Chetcuti Cauchi magisterial inquiry found enough evidence that the media executives' claims were fabricated.

The decision reflects similar conclusions reached by all regulatory and professional bodies that have confirmed Dr. Chetcuti's good standing after examining the footage provided through Chetcuti's own court action.  All bodies have determined that the producers of the French TV programme had concocted the insinuations to align with their negative portrayal of Malta.  Professional bodies that have cleared Dr Chetcuti include the Office of the Regulator of the IIP (November 2019), the IMC (Professional Body) (February 2020), the PCAC (November 2023), and various other professional bodies and regulators, of which Dr Chetcuti is publicly still a member in good standing.

Key Points

  • Chetcuti had obtained an order from the French courts forcing the media company to hand over the original footage underlying the allegations.
  • The original footage clearly contradicted the allegations, providing evidence of tampering and defamation.
  • Chetcuti Cauchi submitted the footage in various legal processes and requested a Magisterial Inquiry into the actions of the media executives.
  • Magisterial Inquiry found enough evidence against the media executives and ordered their prosecution.
  • Media executives' defence: 1) don't use the footage against us,  2) media claims did not insinuate impropriety.

Outcome

  • Court of Criminal Appeal decided: 1) the footage was admissible as evidence against the media executives, 2) the Journalists' claims were no misunderstanding but were made in bad faith, 3) the false claims were defamatory to JP Chetcuti and Chetcuti Cauchi Advisors Ltd.
  • The Court found the media executives guilty of criminal defamation and condemned them to pay fines and damages.
  • JP Chetcuti's position all along that the allegations were fabricated is proved correct once again.

Chetcuti Magisterial Inquiry finds evidence against French journalists 

Back in 2019, the French journalistic production misreported a secretly recorded meeting with representatives of immigration consultancy CC Advisors Ltd on the subject of Malta’s Individual Investor Programme.  Immediately, Chetcuti Cauchi sought a ruling from the French courts securing the handing over of the original raw footage by the M6 media house. This was granted in December 2019 and, after resisting the court order, the French court imposed a daily fine of €1,000.  M6 eventually handed over the original footage, effectively providing evidence that the allegations made by the production were fabricated.

In December 2019, Dr Jean-Philippe Chetcuti filed a criminal complaint against Nicolas De Tavernost, Chairman of M6, the French media group that published the defamatory TV programme and against Bernard Berger de la Villardiere, CEO of Ligne De Front, the production company that produced the defamatory programme.  This led to a Magisterial Enquiry finding sufficient grounds to indict two media executives in criminal proceedings for breach of privacy and criminal defamation.

French media executives indicted in Criminal Court

In June 2022, the two media executives were arraigned before the Criminal Court. Key evidence presented by Jean-Philippe Chetcuti Cauchi: the authentic footage filmed secretly by the media executives themselves, proving their own allegations against Dr Chetcuti to be false.

Journalists: ‘Do not use the recording against us’

The media executives' defence requested that the court reject the footage produced by them and presented in court against them by Chetcuti.  On this point, the Appeals Court finally decided that the footage was admissible in that it was lawfully obtained by Chetcuti in separate legal proceedings against the journalists and that the recordings constituted the central evidence regarding the remarks made by the journalists in the voice-over added to the footage in French.

Journalists: 'We never insinuated any impropriety' 

Ironically, in their defence, the media executives denied making allegations of wrongdoing and claimed that they only commended Jean-Philippe Chetcuti Cauchi on his experience and competence!

“The plaintiffs (Chetcuti) are thus presented as highly efficient professionals for their clients, in the absence of being able to appeal rejection decisions, knowing then how to implement other available remedies, of which there is nothing to indicate that they would be illegal.”
Nicolas de Tavernost, Groupe M6 denied making any claims of impropriety in his defence submissions but was found guilty on appeal.

In its judgement in respect of Ligne de Front CEO, the Court found that:

in his submissions, Bernard DE LA VILLARDIERE indicated that the rushes demonstrate "nothing except that the law firm is indeed opposed to assisting clients with a criminal history", but that, contrary to what he claims, the remark at issue suggests the opposite.”

Court: ‘Allegations were lacking in evidence’, ‘misrepresentation’

In October 2023, the French Court of Criminal Appeal concluded unequivocally that the journalists’ allegations were “lacking in evidence, detrimental to honour and reputation, and characterised dishonest behaviour publishable under criminal law.”

“In this case, the remarks do form part of a discussion of a topic of public interest, concerning the acquisition of Maltese nationality, but they are not based on a sufficient factual basis, since the rushes submitted to the proceedings, the content and translation of which by the parties claiming damages not being disputed in the defence, show that the remarks made by the voice-over in question are not in line with those made by the persons concerned during the interviews with the journalist.” 
paragraph 30, page 12, Judgement of the Court of Criminal Appeal of Paris, 5 Oct, 2023.

Court: Journalists in Bad Faith – Defamation confirmed.

“In view of this misrepresentationthe benefit of good faith cannot be allowed, and the managing editor has committed a civil wrong based on public defamation of individuals, a conviction remaining proportionate to the principle of freedom of expression, the limits of which have been exceeded.” 
paragraph 31, page 12, Judgement of the Court of Criminal Appeal of Paris, 5 Oct, 2023.

The Court ruled that De La Villardiere, CEO of the production firm Ligne de Front is:

"liable as an accessory under ordinary law for having knowingly provided the means to commit the offence, the producer being in possession of the rushes, the production of which was ordered, and the person concerned being, moreover, the presenter of the report at issue.” 
paragraph 34, page 12, Judgement of the Court of Criminal Appeal of Paris, 5th October, 2023.

Finally, the Court of Criminal Appeal found both media executives guilty of criminal defamation in respect of Dr. Jean-Philippe Chetcuti Cauchi and CC Advisors Ltd. and condemned the journalists to fines and damages.

Dr Jean-Philippe Chetcuti

Dr. Jean-Philippe Chetcuti co-founded Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates in 2002 and is now a top-tier Maltese law firm advising international business families and entrepreneurs on legal and tax matters on an international level. In recent years, he has made a name for himself in the fields of investment migration and private wealth law and has won a number of accolades, including, more recently, the Chambers & Partners HNW Lawyer ranking for Malta.

"This echos the decisions of other institutions that reviewed the original footage produced by the convicted journalists themselves and presented by us in evidence, decisions that all concluded that the allegations were fabricated.
For our people and for our clients, we were willing to go all the way to the highest courts in France to seek justice, and today we have got it." 
Dr. Jean-Philippe Chetcuti 


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Key Contacts

Dr Priscilla Mifsud Parker

Senior Partner, Corporate, Tax & Immigration

+356 22056122
pmp@ccmalta.com

Dr Antoine Saliba Haig

Senior Associate, Head of Immigration

+356 22056266
asalibahaig@ccmalta.com

Marina Magri

Head of Immigration & Global Mobility

+356 22056147
mmagri@ccmalta.com