The Malta Independent 20 July 2018, Friday

PN case on judge Mizzi to be decided by constitutional court in two weeks

Tuesday, 13 February 2018, 11:00 Last update: about 6 months ago

A constitutional court is to decide in two weeks time on the admissibility of evidence in the case filed by the Nationalist Party, in which it is claiming its right to a fair hearing has been violated by the refusal of a judge to step aside in a case in which they say the judge may be perceived as having an interest.

The saga surrounding the seven appeals filed against magistrate Ian Farrugia’s decision to green-light an inquiry into a number of high profile Maltese figures mentioned in the Panama Papers leak, continued this morning before judge Joseph Zammit Mackeon.

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The seven subjects of the inquiry are Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, together with businessmen Brian Tonna, Karl Cini, Malcolm Scerri and Adrian Hillman. They had each filed separate appeals to this decision, which were assigned to judge Antonio Mizzi.

But former PN leader Simon Busuttil challenged the judge's suitability to hear the case due to the fact that the judge's wife, Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi, had publicly expressed an opinion on the Panama Papers scandal.

Judge Mizzi refused to recuse himself, leading Busuttil to claim that his right to a fair hearing had been breached, and thus starting the constitutional court case and requesting the appointing of a new judge to hear the appeals.

Lawyer Jason Azzopardi told the court this morning that Simon Busuttil wished to testify but was abroad at the moment.

Lawyers Mark Vassallo and Aaron Mifsud Bonnici and Pawlu Lia for the defendants, contested that the arguments made before judge Mizzi had no place or relevance to this case.

“Documents to this effect are not admissible as they form part of a magisterial inquiry which is secret,” argued Mifsud Bonnici. He asked that these documents be expunged from the acts of the proceedings.

Jason Azzopardi denounced the requests as “frivolous.” “The other side is mixing things up on purpose.”

“They are frivolous because it is obvious that the request rests on the confusion of the concepts of ‘admissibility’ and ‘relevance’ of a document.” One document the defence wanted expunged is a transcript in which the sitting judge “had declared several times in open court that an argument for his recusal was ‘highly annoying’”.
“Therefore it is clearly, obviously, a case where the applicant in view of the jurisprudence of the European Court, has the right to plead the lack of subjective impartiality of the judge.

“Other documents are not only admissible and relevant, but through them the applicant is showing that he, in fact, has been recognised by the court of magistrates as having juridical interest and therefore is essential to defeat one of the defendants’ leading pleas.

Likewise, news reports on what judge Mizzi’s wife said in the European Parliament were “beyond essential” as they formed the cornerstone of the applicant’s argument about the breach of the legal maxim that “justice must not only be done but be seen to be done,” as because of these utterances, “justice in this case cannot be seen to be done,” Azzopardi said.

Judge Joseph Zammit Mackeon, after hearing the submissions and arguments, put the case off for a pronouncement on the matter for 27 February

 

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