The Malta Independent 23 July 2019, Tuesday

Panama Papers saga: Judge to rule on Konrad Mizzi application in chambers

Thursday, 20 December 2018, 13:55 Last update: about 8 months ago

A judge will decree from chambers on an application filed by Minister Konrad Mizzi in which he is requesting the court hear a case in which he is claiming to have suffered a breach of his right to a fair hearing.

This emerged during this morning’s first hearing in the constitutional case filed by Mizzi on 7 December, in which he is claiming a breach of his fundamental human rights by the request for a magisterial inquiry made by former leader of the Opposition, Simon Busuttil following the Panama Papers scandal.

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The minister’s constitutional application prompted Busuttil and Casa to request admittance into the suit as intervenors.

Mr Justice Robert Mangion, presiding over the constitutional case had decreed yesterday that the court would first decide upon the request for intervention by Busuttil and Casa and then consider the Minister’s request for the postponement, as an interim measure, of proceedings before the Criminal Court until the constitutional case is decided.

All the parties turned up for the sitting this morning, except Mizzi, whose lawyer John Bonello said he was abroad.

Several procedural issues were dealt with this morning before the court turned its attention to an additional request filed last night by Mizzi asking for a stay of proceedings in the Panama Appeals before the Criminal Court.

That request came in the form of another application filed by the Minister’s lawyers on Wednesday afternoon in the Court Registry, minutes before closing time, only being served on the parties during today’s hearing.

“We filed it after your decree,” explained lawyer Aron Mifsud Bonnici, who is also appearing for Mizzi. “We had filed a similar request before the Criminal Court (presided over by Mr. Justice Giovanni Grixti) but to our knowledge, that court has not yet pronounced itself in that respect.”

The reason behind the last-minute application was to ask the judge to give a ruling on the stay of the criminal appeals, before dealing with the intervention in the suit by Busuttil and Casa. “An interim measure pending a decision on an interim measure,” scoffed lawyer Jason Azzopardi in the courtroom.

“The raison d’etre behind these constitutional proceedings was to stay the criminal proceedings before the other court. If no interim measure, provisional measure - call it what you may - is given, the whole purpose is lost,” Bonello argued, as the court granted the AG lawyers a right to submit their reply to this latest request by next Wednesday.

Likening the request to a precautionary warrant, Bonello argued that until the intervention issue was decided, some form of provisional safeguard was needed. “We cannot accept delays without some minimal form of protection,” argued the lawyer.

Bonello also appealed for caution. “There are no precedents for this.”

“Let us not leave these important proceedings from ending up as a political tool. We cannot, as men of the law, accept delays upon delays without the issue being addressed.”

Going over the steps which had led to this case, Bonello argued that Busuttil himself had also requested a stay of proceedings before the Criminal Court until a case filed before the European Court was decided.

“Isn’t all this in the records of that case?” Mr Justice Mangion asked, making reference to the Panama Appeals records which are to be exhibited by the Court Registrar and inserted into the acts of this constitutional case.

“Yes. Except for one thing,” Dr Mifsud Bonnici replied. “Dr Busuttil had requested the stay of proceedings before Mr Justice Antonio Mizzi, so as to take his case abroad, but then failed to do so.”

“Judge Mizzi was to retire within one week. Show some loyalty to the court” interrupted Azzopardi, earning a rebuke from the judge who reminded him that, so far, Azzopardi had no right to address the court since his clients - Busuttil and Casa - were not yet admitted as parties to the proceedings.

After hearing these submissions, the Court announced that it would be giving a decision on the request for a provisional remedy by means of a decree in chambers.

The issue concerning the intervention of Busuttil and Casa is to be dealt with during the next sitting, in January.

Lawyers Aaron Mifsud Bonnici and John Bonello appeared for Mizzi. Lawyer Jason Azzopardi appeared parte civile for Simon Busuttil and David Casa. Lawyer Maurizio Cordina appeared for the AG.

 

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