The Malta Independent 17 July 2019, Wednesday

Watch - Updated (2): Judge turns down Delia application seeking full copy of Egrant inquiry

Tuesday, 14 May 2019, 09:27 Last update: about 3 months ago

The First Hall of the Civil Court has denied a request by Opposition leader Adrian Delia to be granted access to the full copy of the Egrant inquiry report.

The case filed by Opposition leader Adrian Delia. The decision was handed down by Judge Robert Mangion.

Delia had filed the case after the conclusions from Magistrate Aaron Bugeja's inquiry on the ownership of the secret Panamanian company Egrant were published in July last year.

ADVERTISEMENT

The inquiry did not find evidence that the company Egrant belonged to Muscat or his wife as had been alleged by Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The Prime Minister, who was handed a full copy of the inquiry, had said that he wants the entire report to be published but the Attorney General has opposed any such a move.

The AG had told the court that publishing the entire Egrant Inquiry report whilst redacting certain details was “not an option”.

Both Delia and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had testified in the court case. The conclusions from Magistrate Aaron Bugeja's inquiry on the ownership of the secret Panamanian company Egrant were published back in July, with the Prime Minister stating that he wanted the full inquiry published, despite the Attorney General’s resistance to such a move.  

Delia said it was the right of the PN leader to file Constitutional proceedings, referring to the AG’s argument that Delia had not exhausted his ordinary remedies.

Article 518 of the Criminal Code allows the AG to send the acts of an inquiry back to the inquiring magistrate until he is satisfied with it.

The AG had argued that the Leader of the Opposition doesn’t have an investigative role and that this belonged to journalists. “The inquiry should not be used to have an MP try to acquire a document to use at the opportune moment to obtain a political advantage. So the PM or the Minister of Justice are either not politicians or in parliament because they have this document.

“Is the Leader of the Opposition supposed to sit down and wait for a journalist to write a story to inform the public? Because he isn’t a journalist? How can we come here and say that the role of the Leader of the Opposition isn’t that of a watchdog? Because the EU court only mentioned in relation to journalists? But that is because it never met such a case - this is the first time!”

The AG has insisted that a distinction had to be made between when the AG is acting in a quasi-judicial role and when taking an administrative decision. In the latter case, judicial review applies. The AG is also treated as a member of the executive branch of government in the Constitution, he said.

Speaking to the media outside the law courts, Delia said the Opposition will be appealing the court ruling.

Delia said that court had confirmed that the Opposition has a right to request information and act as a watchdog over the government. 

While the Egrant inquiry report could be deemed to be in the public interest, it did not qualify as a document that can be requested by right.

“We feel that with respect to our role as a public watchdog we have to persevere so we will be appealing this decision so that the public has a right to see the contents of the report, which can then be scrutinised.”

Delia said this is a case on freedom of expression and freedom of information. “The public has a right to know. I will do everything I can so that this report is made public.”

He said that not all conclusions of the inquiry had been published and there are still 1,400 pages of unknown content.

In a statement later, Delia said he will appeal the judgment.

  • don't miss