The Malta Independent 22 February 2020, Saturday

‘You cannot be selective in judicial process’, Fearne says when challenged over 17 Black

Kevin Schembri Orland Tuesday, 13 November 2018, 11:57 Last update: about 2 years ago

With Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in Sicily on government duty and beleaguered Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi nowhere to be seen, it was yet again up to Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne to defend both as pressure related to 17 Black revelations continues to increase.

Facing the media today, Fearne was asked again whether he believes OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi should be removed, he highlighted yesterday’s Parliamentary debate, and said that the main points which came out are that there is a judicial process ongoing, and that investigations from the authorities are taking place confirming that the institutions are strong. He argued that one cannot be selective in the judicial process.

Seven appeals were filed against Magistrate Ian Farrugia's decision to launch an inquiry into whether chief of staff Keith Schembri and minister Konrad Mizzi breached money laundering laws last year. The appeals were filed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri, Nexia BT's Brian Tonna and Karl Cini, as well as Malcolm Scerri and Adrian Hillman. Judge Antonio Mizzi was appointed to hear that appeal, which then sparked controversy given that his wife is PL MEP Marlene Mizzi..It was ruled that Mizzi could hear the case, however he had adjourned the case to after his retirement, thus another Judge would need to be appointed.

Fearne also claimed that not all allegations against MPs are treated equally. “It seems that while allegations against government MPs have ongoing judicial processes, the Opposition Leader does not want to weigh himself on the same scales.”

The press highlighted that the inquiry is being appealed by the persons involved, and Fearne was asked whether he agreed the inquiry should be dropped for the inquiry to go forward.

“We are a European country who moves ahead according to the Rule of Law. Every citizen has the right to appeal to every process within the courts. We should leave our courts and institutions conduct their work.”

This newsroom asked the Minister how government could use the argument that the inquiries are ongoing when members of said government are stalling them. “The process is a whole one. You cannot be selective in the process, saying which parts can occur and which can’t. That is the rule of law. Every person in the country has the possibility to appeal a judicial process. That is what is happening, no more and no less.”

The 17 Black revelations found that local investigators were given an intelligence report naming Electrogas director and CEO of the Tumas Group Yorgen Fenech as the owner of 17 Black. Tumas Group is one of the partners in the Electrogas power station. The power station had been pushed by Konrad Mizzi back when he was Energy Minister. 17 Black was listed as the 'Main Client' and 'Possible Payer/Sender' of Tillgate and Hearnville, the offshore Panamanian companies owned by OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, leaked emails obtained by German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung, and published by the Daphne Project previously revealed. Keith Schembri, in reaction to the news story, said that 17 Black never became clients of his business group.

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