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MOC president explains his position in libel case

Mr Justice Lino Farrugia Sacco explained in court this morning why he had launched legal proceedings against Ray Bugeja, (then) editor of The Times and journalist Christian Peregin over two articles which appeared in June in the newspaper and on timesofmalta.com. related to the sale of tickets for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

Mr Justice Farrugia Sacco is the president of the Malta Olympic Committee.

He referred to articles carried in the newspaper on June 18 and 19 on an investigation by The Sunday Times of London on the sale of Olympic Games tickets.

His name was mentioned in the articles, leading people to believe that he and Malta Olympic Committee secretary Joseph Cassar were under some sort of investigation over corruption allegations.

He said timesofmalta.com had also featured a video taken by The  Sunday Times (of London). The video, he said, was heavily edited (by the London newspaper) to the extent that the impression was given that he was present for parts of the meeting when he was actually never there. Even The Times (Malta) could have been given that impression. 

When an offer of 60,000 sterling was mentioned, he was not present. 

Dr Farrugia Sacco said that in April he attended a conference in Budapest organised by the European Olympic Committee. National Olympic Committees had discussed the contracts for Authorised Ticket Retail (ATR). He said there were several ticket retailers going around the hotel, seeking to speak to national committees on the sale of tickets.

There were two ways how tickets for the Winter Olympics could be sold. The first, in Malta’s case was through the Malta Olympic Committee, and the second, which, he said was more worth it, was to reach agreement for  ATR. The Malta committee opted for the second.

Mr Justice Farrugia Sacco said hee had never heard of the company the undercover journalists claimed to represent. He felt that they were amateurs and he lost interest and left.

Later he found out they were undercover journalists. He said he spoke a little bit with them and left.

He said that The Times of Malta newspaper had asked whether the Sunday Times report incriminated him. But he replied that he did not do anything to incriminate himself because he did not do anything wrong.  

He said that before the first article appeared, Mr Peregin called him for his comments.

He spoke to him again the following day. He told him that there were several mistakes in the article, and these were corrected online, However these corrections were not carried in the newspaper on the following day.

Mr Justice Farrugia Sacco said he had requested the IOC and The Times of London to give him the full footage of the video and the full transcript, but he was never given these.

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