The Malta Independent 21 January 2020, Tuesday

Judge orders continuation of case on incriminating phone tap evidence

Monday, 9 December 2019, 15:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

A judge has ordered the continuation of a Constitutional case filed by Charles Muscat known as il-Pips in which he is attacking incriminating phone tap evidence.

Muscat had been arrested in 2001 in connection with the importation of a considerable amount of cocaine and cannabis, after a surveillance operation run in tandem by the Malta Security Services (MSS) and the police.

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He is contesting the validity of the phone taps, arguing that legal safeguards imposed by the EU were “completely ignored” and that the law as it stood, permitted this type of monitoring with the consent of the minister for internal affairs without any judicial scrutiny.

“This means that the interceptions in this case were made on the basis of a warrant issued by the Executive arm of government without any control by the judiciary.”           

Muscat also argued that the keeping of data by service providers and the accessing and use of that data by the authorities was in breach of his fundamental rights.

His lawyers, Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri and Amadeus Cachia, maintain that the AG’s defence of res judicata – based on previous courts’ refusal to summon former interior minister Tonio Borg -did not hold water.

In a decision handed down on 25 November, the court, presided by Mr. Justice Toni Abela noted that, whilst in the previous cases, Muscat had claimed a breach of a right to fair trial on the basis of the courts’ decrees, this time he was “attacking not the decrees, but Chapter 391 of the laws of Malta itself.”

The judge noted that the previously decided cases, the courts had made it very clear that they were dealing solely with the refusal to summon the witness “and nothing more.”

Mr. Justice Abela conducted a detailed examination of case law on the matter of res judicata, before concluding that all the prerequisites required for this plea were not present.

For this reason, the court dismissed the plea and ordered the case to proceed.

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