The Malta Independent 16 May 2022, Monday

Appeals case on Panama Papers ruling behind closed doors; judge orders PM to attend next sitting

Gabriel Schembri Wednesday, 16 August 2017, 10:32 Last update: about 6 years ago

A sitting before Mr Justice Antonio Mizzi on appeals filed by the Prime Minister, his chief of staff and the Tourism Minister against a court decision ordering a criminal investigation on matters related to the Panama Papers revelations was held behind closed doors today.

Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil is requesting that Mr Justice Mizzi recuses himself from the case as he is married to Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi, with the PN leader claiming a possible conflict of interest.

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The case will continue to be heard on 11 September, with the judge ruling that PM Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi must attend. 

In comments to the media after today's session, outgoing PN leader Simon Busuttil explained that earlier today, lawyer Jason Azzopardi formally asked for the recusal of Judge Antonio Mizzi.

Azzopardi quoted the law on the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure on possible conflict of interest. He said that Azzopardi's arguments were based on the law and on previous judgements which ended up with the recusal of judges. Busuttil also mentioned similiar cases which appeared before the European Court of Human Rights. 

"No one is attacking Mr Justice Mizzi or the courts. But the fact remains that his wife is a PL MEP and this does not help in removing any doubt in the decision. We always appeal for justice, and for the public to see that justice is actually being achieved," Busuttil told the media. 

"Let's not forget that Marlene Mizzi (Antonio Mizzi's wife), has also politically attacked me personally when debating the Panama Papers issue." He argued that Antonio Mizzi's wife forms part of a political party whose leader is one of the suspects involved in the investigations. 

Busuttil said that Mr Justice Mizzi should recuse himself because in previous occassions, when he was asked to do so, he stepped down without much trouble. He mentioned a case which was being heard back in April of 2015 against blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia, when Judge Mizzi was asked to abstain for this very same reason and the court decided to uphold this appeal. 

The case will now continue on 11 September with the court requesting all the parties, including the Prime Minister, Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, to be present.

Simon Busuttil is arguing that it is very clear that the other party in the case wants to keep dragging its feet and postpone justice to prevail. 

"Let's not forget, that we are going through all of this because we want a simple investigation to start. Why are they dragging their feet unless they have anything to hide?" Busuttil said. 

Lawyer Jazon Azzopardi added that Marlene Mizzi is bound to be loyal to her party leader. He referred to a Facebook post by Marlene Mizzi in which she 'attacked' Simon Busuttil and other occasions in the European Parliament when Mizzi was speaking about the Panama Papers scandal. 

"The court is obliged to take its decision urgently, but instead we get these delays," he added. 

The appeal this morning was heard behind closed doors, with the judge requesting the media to leave the courtroom while only Busuttil and his lawyer was allowed inside. Other PN officials were also asked to leave. 

Appeals were also filed by Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna and Karl Cini, as well as Kasco Group’s Malcolm Scerri and Times of Malta's former managing director Adrian Hillman. In all, seven appeals were filed against Magistrate Aaron Farrugia’s decree.

Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi filed an appeal after Magistrate Ian Farrugia ruled that an investigation should be launched to discover whether money laundering laws had been broken. The three had initially accepted to cooperate with the investigation but later filed an appeal.

 

 

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