The Malta Independent 26 May 2024, Sunday
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Muscat files claim that his rights were breached after not being questioned before he was charged

Albert Galea Wednesday, 15 May 2024, 08:06 Last update: about 11 days ago

Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has claimed that his fundamental rights were breached as he was not questioned by police prior to being charged in connection with the hospitals deal.

In a judicial protest filed three days after charges were officially filed against Muscat, the former Prime Minister and Labour Party leader argued that he was also unable to effectively prepare a defence because the police had not given him access to the evidence of the case.

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Muscat is one of dozens who stands charged in connection with the concession which saw three state hospitals to be managed by Vitals Global Healthcare.  He faces charges of money laundering and fraud amongst others.  He has denied any wrongdoing and called the charges against him a “political vendetta.”

In the protest, Muscat noted how it was confirmed on 30 April during a sitting in the constitutional court that magistrate Gabriella Vella’s inquiry had been concluded and also how on 1 May he was notified of an Investigation Order and a Garnishee Order requested against him by the Attorney General and subsequently confirmed by the Criminal Court.

The former Prime Minister further noted how on 3 May he had, through his lawyers, written to the Police Commissioner with a request to be summoned for questioning so that he may “answer any question” the Commissioner may have and provide a statement if necessary.

Muscat noted how up until 6 May – the date that charges were filed against him and others – the Police Commissioner had not summoned him so that he may “give his version.”

“This fact, even in view of the nature of the accusations against him, breached the fundamental rights of the applicant,” the judicial protest reads.

On the same day, it continues, Muscat’s lawyers sent an email to the Police Commissioner requesting access to the case material in order for him to prepare his defence. Muscat cited legislation which dictates that a suspect or accused in a case should have access to “all material evidence in the police’s possession, both if it is in favour or against the said persons” so that they can prepare their defence.

The same legislation, the judicial protest reads, provides that such access to the material evidence is granted in a “reasonable time” for one to effectively exercise one’s right to defence and “at least should be given once the merits of the case are submitted.”

Muscat noted in the judicial protest that he only got to know that he had been charged through the media’s reportage on the case.

The judicial protest reads that Muscat’s fundamental rights had been breached or were likely to be breached because the former Prime Minister was placed in a situation where he could not prepare his defence, and because he was not questioned by police, thereby stopping him from exercising the right to clear his name from being a suspect.

Muscat noted that the country’s money laundering regulations place the burden of proof on the defendant to prove their innocence, rather than the prosecution to prove guilt, which is why, the protest reads, the AG’s office and the Police Commissioner had to consider evidence both against and in favour of Muscat before criminal proceedings were opened against him.

“The behaviour of the [AG and the Police Commissioner] is going to lead to [Muscat] having to go through criminal proceedings, with all the effects that these proceedings due to the shortcomings of the [AG and Police Commissioner] will bring on his life and family, and this because the same [AG and Police Commissioner] did not give [Muscat] the opportunity to be heard before criminal proceedings were instituted against him,” the protest read.

This, the protest continues, is a breach of Muscat’s fundamental rights as protected by the Maltese Constitution and European convention.

Muscat said that he placed the AG and the Police Commissioner “in deceit, at fault, and in default” for all the effects that their actions or lack thereof may have, as a result of the very serious accusations against him and all the effects they bring.

The judicial protest was signed by lawyer Vincent Galea.

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