The Malta Independent 18 June 2019, Tuesday

PM's lawyer facing prospect of detention for long standing unpaid contempt of court fine

David Lindsay Sunday, 14 April 2019, 10:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Prime Minister’s and the Labour Party’s lawyer Pawlu Lia is facing possible detention over a long standing fine for contempt of court, well-placed legal sources have informed this newspaper.

Lia had been fined the equivalent of around €50 back in 2002 and for some reason he has not coughed up the fine, leaving Labour’s lawyer facing a possible detention if he were to be made to face the real brunt of the law.

ADVERTISEMENT

A €50 unpaid fine seem like peanuts, but the point of the matter is that the lawyer also sits on the Commission for the Administration of Justice, where he is said to have considerable clout.

And the fact that he has refused to pay the fine meted out by the now deceased magistrate is, according to legal experts speaking with this newspaper, “an affront to the very rule of law”.

Lia himself is tasked with reprimanding members of the bench, having been appointed by the Prime Minister to the Commission for the Administration of Justice – the disciplinary entity for members of the judiciary.

And, given that, the fact that he has not paid a fine after having been reprimanded by a member of the judiciary is somewhat ironic.

According to the Criminal Code, a reprimand or admonition is made in open court by the judge or magistrate who tried the offence; and whosoever receives such a “reprimand or admonition with overt acts of contempt or want of respect, shall be liable to detention or to a fine”.

Lia had been fined in this case, this newspaper is informed, but he never paid up.

The Criminal Code also stipulates that if in default of such payment, the court can issue a warrant of arrest against the person and convert the amount into a detention period at the rate of one day for every €11.65, meaning Lia could theoretically be facing a term of detention of four to five days, if the court registrar were to demand the payment and if Lia still refused to cough up.

Lia serves as Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s personal lawyer in the Egrant debacle, and others, he is the main legal counsel for the Labour Party and was also appointed by the Prime Minister to sit on the Commission for the Administration of Justice.

Lia’s apparent conflict of interest was recently flagged again after it was confirmed that his daughter-in-law, Nadine Lia, is being nominated for the post of magistrate.  Besides being married to Pawlu Lia’s son, Alessandro, the lawyer recently served as legal consultant to Economy Minister Chris Cardona.

Lawyers who recently spoke to this newspaper on condition of anonymity last week described Nadine Lia’s impending appointment to the bench as “outrageous” and “of the worst kind”, and threatened to boycott her and possibly take the matter to the Constitutional Court due to concerns regarding a lack of fair hearing.

Such a move would lead to legal wrangling in the courts and weeks, if not months of delays.

The nomination was put forward by the Judicial Appointments Committee. The committee has also nominated magistrates Francesco Depasquale and Yana Micallef Stafrace for promotion to judges.   They are widely expected to be accepted.

  • don't miss