The Malta Independent 9 December 2018, Sunday

Updated (4): PM tells court he has not read Egrant inquiry in full, gave copy to Kurt Farrugia

Friday, 26 October 2018, 10:21 Last update: about 2 months ago

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat testified on Friday morning in constitutional proceedings filed by Opposition leader Adrian Delia, who is challenging the Attorney General's decision to deny him a full copy of the Egrant inquiry. 

The judge ordered the prime minister's personal lawyer Pawlu Lia not to be present during the hearing of other witnesses, on objection of Opposition leader Adrian Delia's lawyer. 

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Lia could still be called in as a witness to be asked at what time he received the copy of the Egrant report. Delia's lawyer is Vincent Galea. 

In 49 pages of conclusions published by the Attorney General's office, the magistrate cast doubts on several aspects on the testimony of former Pilatus employee Maria Efimova and found that many of the allegations, first published by Daphne Caruana Galizia in April 2017, were not backed by proof. 

Muscat told the court he recieved a hard copy of the inquiry and said justice minister Owen Bonnici has a soft copy. But he also said he has not read the inquiry in full.

"The report was important because my entire career depended on the outcome of the case... I had said that if there were any indication of a connection of Egrant to me or my family, I would resign."

Muscat said he had been alerted on the eve of his press conference on the Egrant inquiry conclusions by Bonnici that the magistrate's inquiry report had reached the Attorney General, Peter Grech, and that he asked his lawyer Pawlu Lia for a copy.

Muscat also said he gave his copy of the inquiry to his spokesperson Kurt Farrugia. "I saw the conclusions and they left no doubt. I had to prepare a statement for the public, so I sought advice from my lawyer and the justice minister. I wanted to be sure that I would not prejudge any eventual issue by what I would state."

"Ironically I'm the one being asked questions when my wife and I are the victims... I have not seen the inquiry in full. I'm still disappointed and angry about it. There are persons, private individuals sharing names with me and my wife who should not be mentioned in public. That's one of reasons the AG objected to its publication in entirety."

Justice minister Owen Bonnici took the witness stand after the Prime Minister arguing that even though the Attorney General's office fell under his ministerial responsibilities, it was independent, as dictated by the constitution.

This was questioned by Galea however, with the minister insisting that the AG had security of tenure, unlike a minister, and may only be removed by a two-thirds majority.

Bonnici stressed that even when acting as a consultant to the government, the AG was autonomous. Bonnici added that he had played no part in the inquiry.

He said he was called by the AG on 21 July and was informed that the inquiry had been received by his office and that the AG's office would be issuing a statement.

Bonnici said he had gotten involved when it transpired that Muscat and the AG had differing views on the report's publication.

Asked whether he had given anyone else a copy of the inquiry, Bonnici replied in the negative, adding however that he was aware that Kurt Farrugia had one.

Bonnici stressed that no members of the government or the Labour Party had asked for copies.

Although Joseph Muscat had said he wanted the full report to be published, the Attorney General has refused to publish the inquiry report. 

Opposition leader Adrian Delia insists he should have a copy of the inquiry report. 

The case was adjourned to 26 November.

 

'Institutional incest' - Delia

Speaking to journalists after the sitting, Adrian Delia said there was “institutional incest” in the country.

“Today we found out that Kurt Farrugia also has a full copy of the inquiry. We heard Owen Bonnici contradict the AG when he said that the report was given to him by lawyer Pawlu Lija. He also contradicted the AG by saying that he gave advice to the PM and said that he had limited himself to giving advice about the publication of the report.

We found out that the Justice Minister asked the AG for a soft copy only after telling him that he had already been given a printed copy by Pawlu Lia.  

The PM confirmed that the conclusions alone would have been enough to give him the necessary reassurances. We also found out today, from the behaviour we witnessed in the court, that the AG is the PM’s lawyer, but the PM’s lawyers are the lawyers of the AG.” 

PL statement

The Labour Party, in a statement, said that the only political imbalance is one against the Prime Minister. They said that the "lie not only led to repercussions for the Prime Minister and his family, but for the country."

The PL said it hopes that this case does not result in a lack of justice for those who suffered due to this case, and that it does not give a chance for those responsible not to get what they deserve.

PN Statement

The Nationalist party, in a statement, said that Joseph Muscat had made a "u-turn" since he said today that he thought the Egrant report shouldn't be published in full.  The PN said that Owen Bonnici meanwhile had overrided the Attorney General when he said that he had been given a copy of the report by the Prime Minister's personal lawyer and not the Attorney General.  Bonnici also overrided the AG when he said that he hadn't given advice on the enquiry, but had given advice on whether it should be published in its entirety.

The PN said that with his declarations and his "u-turn", Muscat was strengthening the polical imbalance that the AG created when he insisted that Adrian Delia should not be given a full copy of the inquiry.

Justice Ministry's statement

The Opposition Leader must decide whether there is institutional incest between two persons in constitutional roles, or if they lied to each other, the Justice Ministry said.

"The truth is neither. There is no constitutional incest, as the persons who occupy the constitutional roles acted completely autonomously of each other.:

The Justice Ministry said that nobody lied to each other as Justice Minister Bonnici confirmed that after he was given access by the Prime Minister's lawyer to the full Egrant inquiry report on 21 July 2018 to help the PM out, two days later on request by Minister Bonnici the AG passed him a soft copy of the inquiry electronically.

The Prime Minister's lawyer, on his part, received a copy after filing the request with the AG on the Same Saturday, the ministry said, a request which was accepted.


 

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