The Malta Independent 29 May 2024, Wednesday
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Joseph Muscat seeks recusal of magistrate leading hospitals inquiry

Albert Galea Thursday, 18 May 2023, 11:35 Last update: about 2 years ago

Updated at 14:20 with a statement from Repubblika

Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has filed a request for the recusal of the magistrate who is leading the inquiry into the concession which saw three hospitals sold first to Vitals Global Healthcare and then to Steward Health Care.

In a post on his Facebook page, Muscat said that he had filed a request for Magistrate Gabriella Vella to relinquish her role in the inquiry on the hospitals concession.

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Muscat said that he wants the inquiry “to pass to another member of the Judiciary who can secure impartiality, both as perception and a matter of fact, in this case which has now turned political.”

While he published the full judicial filing, Muscat provided a summary of the main reasons for his request to his followers.

He said that the Magistrate did not decree any of his requests to testify as part of the inquiry: “For some reason, she was comfortable in ordering the Police to enter on my family in our home but not in hearing what I have to say,” he said.

Police had searched the Muscat family household in January 2022 in connection with the inquiry into the now defunct hospitals deal, with the former Prime Minister saying that he was only “half surprised” at the search.

Muscat also said that there have been “continuous leaks” in the inquiry, “including people publicly boasting of knowing what was going to happen, people who showed up on my doorstep to follow proceedings, and now even the publication of information that seems to be originating from the inquiry.”

Thirdly, Muscat said that members of the magistrate’s “immediate family” have “promoted propaganda” by those who had filed for the inquiry and “even expressed themselves publicly on the issue under scrutiny.”

“Constitutional case law, the Code of Ethics and international principles governing the judiciary are clear about this,” he said.

“I have resisted taking this step for some time to give the benefit of doubt but the outrageous moves of the past few days made me lose all possible trust I could have in this process.  As I said yesterday, I will fight even on my own for truth to prevail and for those cooking up conjectures to suit their political agenda to pay,” Muscat said.

Muscat’s request comes a day after an investigation by The Times of Malta, the Shift News and OCCRP revealed that police are looking into Muscat’s bank accounts and income declarations in connection to possible corruption in the hospitals’ deal.

According to the report, investigators suspect that one consultancy contract with Swiss company SpringX Media, which netted Muscat €60,000, could have been used as a vehicle to disguise payments from the "fraudulent" hospitals deal, in plain sight.

Muscat denies the claims and said the income was from legitimate work. He further claimed that there is no investigation into his finances; to his knowledge, the inquiry is looking into his contract with SpringX Media.

In comments to the media, Muscat said the report is an "outright lie". He said that all his work is documented, and these "lies will be exposed". He said he will "continue to fight those who never forgave me for throwing them in Opposition."

In a statement on his own Facebook page after the reports were published. Muscat said the “concerted attack” by the “usual suspects” has “resumed”, and pledged to “make sure that those who are manipulating facts are pursued through justice when time comes, and that truth prevails, even if I am alone in doing this.”

The request also came on the same morning as a court filing to the inquiry by the Nationalist Party, who said that a whistleblower had come forward with new evidence about the deal.

Reacting to Muscat’s court filing, Repubblika said that the inquiry on the “fraud and corruption” in the hospitals deal was opened four years on its request, and that the people “suspected of these crimes did everything they could for it not to happen.”

“However, the courts decided that the inquiry should happen. Since then, Joseph Muscat and his clique have done everything to undermine the work of the inquiring magistrate,” the NGO said.

The NGO pointed out that the Joseph Muscat and Robert Abela governments have both always said that we should allow the institutions to work.

“Now that there is an institution doing its duty, Muscat is attacking it in order to undermine it and stop it doing its duty,” Repubblika said.

The NGO said that these are “clear signs of panic” on Muscat’s part because he knows what he did when he was in the seat of power.  The NGO continued by saying that they would not accept a situation where a “clique of individuals” considers themselves to be above the law.

“After he took control of parts of as many of our country’s public institutions as he could while he was Prime Minister so that he and his friends could pig out on the backs of the people, Muscat is now trying to shift what is his onto others,” the NGO added.

Repubblika concluded by condemning “Muscat’s attack” on the judiciary and promised that it would keep on working so that “he and his clique pay for their corruption in line with our country’s laws.”

 

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