The Malta Independent 24 October 2021, Sunday

PN says court to start investigation into Muscat, Mizzi, Schembri; government reacts

Wednesday, 26 July 2017, 09:49 Last update: about 5 years ago

The request by Nationalist Party Leader Simon Busuttil's to launch a magisterial inquiry regarding the panama papers will include all seven 'suspect persons', one of which is Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Nationalist Party MP and lawyer Jason Azzopardi announced this morning.

This morning Busuttil tweeted that the court has accepted his request to launch a criminal investigation against Minister Konrad Mizzi and OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri over the Panama Papers.

Addressing a news conference at the Nationalist Party HQ, Azzopardi confirmed the seven 'suspected persons' mentioned in Busuttil's appeal, namely;  Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Brian Tonna, Karl Cini, Malcolm Scerri and Adrian Hillman.

"Article 546 of the law states that these persons are now referred to as suspect persons," said Azzopardi, explaining the terms he used. 

In reply to the appeal presented by Busuttil last week, the seven 'suspect persons' retorted that the leader of the opposition should not ask for an inquiry whose concern links with other magisterial inquiries currently underway and that he was not clear in his testimony regarding who he was talking about, Azzopardi explained. All replies by 'suspect persons' were similar in nature. Five replies were received,  some of which were written up by more than one 'suspect person', he said.

Azzopardi emphasized that Magistrate Ian Farrugia this morning accepted Busuttil's appeal 'in its totaliy'.

"I am emphasising 'in its totality' because the Magistrate could have accepted Simon Busuttil's requested but only for specific people and not inclusive of everyone, however, he accepted the request in the totality of all seven people. It is the first magisterial inquiry regarding the panama scandal, with the potential involvement of seven people who are suspect," he said.

Azzopardi added that Busuttil 'knows about' 128-page-long FIAU report which is linked with the subject of suspicions of money laundering starting from March 2013. "The only person in the country with the powers at law to demand a copy of this report, as well as CCTV footage, bank accounts and so on, is the inquiring Magistrate," he said. 

Those people who are suspect now have till this coming Friday to appeal to the Magistrate's decision, Azzopardi explained. If the inquiry is then still given the go-ahead, a magistrate will be selected by lot. 

He emphasized that it is "not true that there is a link between this magisterial inquiry and already existing ones".

"From our side, the decision taken by the magistrate today makes it clear that we are in the right and this is a serious case and this is the right way of fighting corruption," he said.

OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri had previously filed a criminal complaint against Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil, claiming that Busuttil fabricated facts that he knows do not exist and of taking a false oath in court applications filed. 

Government reacts, says Busuttil misinterprets decree

The government, in a statement issued through the Department of Information, said that the court, in a decree, "said that the inquiry on the facts mentioned by Simon Busuttil has to occur from another Magistrate chosen by lot."

The statement reads: “Magistrate Ian Farrugia specifically states that: ‘it would be at the end of the in genere investigation that one would be able to say whether there are elements for criminal action or not.'”

“He also said: ‘through the strength of the investigation with regard to the in genere, the judicial truth of facts would be established.’ This means that Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil is not correct. It is embarrassing for the Opposition Leader to misinterpret a court decree in this way for political gain.”

 “The same facts of this case are already the substance of other inquiries asked for by the PN Leader. There was no new evidence or information in what the Opposition Leader did, and so like in the other cases, the government members will cooperate with the in genere inquiry that still needs to establish the facts.”

This morning’s landmark decision vindicates the actions taken by current PN leader Simon Busuttil  - Chris Said

“This morning’s landmark decision vindicates the actions taken by current PN leader Simon Busuttil, and shadow minister Jason Azzopardi to expose the absolute disregard of the rule of law and the transparency, honesty and law-abiding behaviour required from Joseph Muscat’s closest allies. These actions are not based on convenience, and are not aimed at obtaining any political mileage. Simon Busutill’s stance on these matters mirror mine – we will not be silenced or bullied into submission.”

“Our duty as representatives of the Maltese and Gozitan citizens is to ensure that the law applies to each and every single of us."

"Today’s decision by Magistrate Ian Farrugia proves that had Simon Busuttil and Jason Azzopardi not acted in this strong, assertive manner, these criminal doings would have been buried. “

“I am not in the business of pandering to a select few and closing an eye to what is obviously illicit activity. Faced with such circumstances, I will always stand up for what is right. This is how I have always directed my political career and how I intend to carry on if elected to lead the Nationalist Party. “

PL reaction

The Labour Party, in reaction, said that Busuttil is repeating the lies that people did not pay attention to during the election campaign, “so much so that the result was what it was.”

"Busuttil, for the second time in the space of a few weeks, is celebrating that a request made before a duty magistrate will be passed to another magistrate to conduct an in genere inquiry to determine if there is enough proof for a criminal case.”

“this is exactly what happeend during the election campaign when he went before Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, with the same allegations, to divert the investigations going on regarding another lie that was made about the Prime Minister.”

The PL said that Busuttil’s reaction in both episodes show that he is dsperate.

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