The Malta Independent 3 March 2024, Sunday
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Hospitals case: no objection by Government, Opposition to Judge Toni Abela

Thursday, 8 February 2024, 14:10 Last update: about 23 days ago

Lawyers, both for the Government and the Opposition, have declared that they had no objection to Mr. Justice Toni Abela presiding over the case filed by the PN aimed at recouping the millions paid to Steward Healthcare in the ill-fated hospitals deal.

Prime Minister Robert Abela and Justice Minister Jonathan Attard stood side by side on one side of the courtroom, Opposition leader Bernard Grech and his predecessor Adrian Delia on the other when the case was called on Thursday morning.

At the very beginning of today’s sitting, the judge - who had been assigned to hear the case after Mr. Justice Giovanni Grixti recused himself - declared in open court that before being elevated to the Bench, he used to occupy a political position and would attend cabinet meetings as the Prime Minister’s legal advisor.

The judge solemnly declared that he had never participated in cabinet debates about the sale of public hospitals to Vitals Global Healthcare or related issues.

“You all know who I am, who I was and what I did. I was a member of the cabinet. I was never asked about this, never voted on it and to the best of my knowledge I was never approached for advice on this matter.”

The judge invited the parties to state whether they wanted him to continue hearing the case.

Lawyer Edward Debono, assisting the plaintiff, declared that his client had no objection to Abela presiding over the case. State Advocate Christopher Soler echoed Debono’s sentiment.

On the Cabinet’s request to intervene in the case, lawyer James D’Agostino, from the Office of the State Advocate, suggested that the court rely on the submissions that had already been made in this regard, before the court as previously presided.

Debono told the court that he would prefer that a decree on the Cabinet’s request to intervene in the case be delivered in open court.

Lawyer Chris Cilia, who is assisting the Government together with lawyers Ian Borg and Maurizio Cordina, told the court that he had been under the impression that the newly-assigned judge would rely on the transcribed submissions.

The Court, having heard what the lawyers for both parties had to say about the matter, announced that it would be issuing a decree on the request later today and adjourned the sitting accordingly.

When the case resumed at 1pm, the judge informed the parties that, as the transcripts of the previous sittings were not yet ready, he would be issuing a decree on February 15. The case on the merits was adjourned for the court to hear both parties' evidence to March 13.

Lawyer Edward Debono is assisting Grech and Delia, together with lawyer Nicholas Debono.

Lawyers James D’Agostino and Julian Farrugia assisted State Advocate Christopher Soler.

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