The Malta Independent 1 October 2023, Sunday
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Joseph Muscat files urgent case to remove magistrate leading hospitals' inquiry

Monday, 5 June 2023, 14:08 Last update: about 5 months ago

Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has asked a court of constitutional jurisdiction to remove Magistrate Gabriella Vella from leading the three hospitals' inquiry, citing continuous leaks.

Muscat has also asked for an interim measure to halt the magisterial inquiry into the hospitals concession until a decision on the magistrate's removal is taken.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Muscat posted a court application he filed against the State Advocate, asking for the inquiry into the hospitals deal to be passed on to another magistrate, "who would be objectively and subjectively impartial."

Muscat said: "The filing shows clearly that Magistrate Vella cannot continue leading this inquiry because of the continuous leaks, including from her investigators, because for more than a year she did not decree my numerous requests to testify, because she accepted a report against me without granting me the legal right to reply, and because she did not recuse herself on the basis of the public comments on the merits of the case by her close relatives."

He said that there is numerous case law which indicate that Vella should have recused herself.

Magistrate Vella had turned down Muscat's request to recuse herself last month, with Muscat promptly replying that he would be taking "all the necessary steps" to ensure that the process treated him with fairness.

Vella is leading a probe looking into possible corruption in the privatisation process of the three hospitals.

The Times of Malta had reported in May that investigators are looking into Muscat's bank accounts and income declarations. It read, among other things, that 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.

Muscat had denied the claims and said the income was from legitimate work, further claiming at the time that there is no investigation into his finances, and that to his knowledge, the inquiry was looking into his contract with SpringX Media.

He had taken to Facebook to deem the "concerted attack" by the "usual suspects" has "resumed," after the reports were published. Muscat said that he would make sure that those manipulating facts are pursued through justice, and that the truth would prevail, even if he was doing it alone.

NGO Repubblika had reacted to Muscat's original request of Vella's recusal, saying that the inquiry on the "fraud and corruption" in the hospitals deal was opened four years on its request.

"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 had said.

The NGO had 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.


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