The Malta Independent 21 July 2018, Saturday

Simon Busuttil wins case on recusal of Mr Justice Antonio Mizzi

Thursday, 12 July 2018, 09:57 Last update: about 7 days ago

A judge has upheld a request by former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil that a case involving the Panama Papers not be heard by judge Antonio Mizzi because of the possibility of a conflict of interest due to the fact that that the judge's wife is a Labour MP.

Judge Mizzi had been due to hear appeals filed by 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 against a magistrate’s decision to green light an inquiry in their regard.

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Those appeals were assigned to judge Mizzi, prompting a challenge by Dr Busuttil on the grounds that the judge’s wife, Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi, had expressed her views on the Panama Papers scandal.

After Mr Justice Mizzi refused to step aside, Busuttil had filed a separate constitutional case claiming a violation of his right to a fair hearing and requesting that the appeals be assigned to a different member of the judiciary.

The first hall of the civil court in its constitutional jurisdiction upheld his requests on Thursday and ordered that the case be assigned to another judge. Lawyer Jason Azzopardi, who appeared for Busuttil in the proceedings, requested that should any appeal be filed, timeframes for appeal should to be shortened.

“This case is about a magisterial inquiry which must be decided urgently,” Dr Azzopardi remarked.

However the opposing counsel pointed argued that this would remove a safeguard to the right to a fair hearing.

After hearing the arguments of both parties judge Joseph Zammit Mackeon ruled that “it a manner most crystal clear Mr Justice Mizzi should moved aside, even if only in the best interest of the administration of justice, all semblance of doubt about every decision and provision he would make.”

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