The Malta Independent 17 July 2024, Wednesday
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Defence teams in Fearne, Scicluna Vitals case fail in bid to get magistrate to recuse himself

Albert Galea Monday, 17 June 2024, 10:31 Last update: about 29 days ago

The defence teams of former Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne, Central Bank governor Edward Scicluna, and a host of others charged in connection with the Vitals inquiry failed in a bid to get Magistrate Leonard Caruana to recuse himself from hearing the case on Monday.

The case had been on uncertain grounds after its first sitting last month was brought to a half when Magistrate Caruana ruled that one of the accused – the company DF Advocates – had not been notified of the charges against it.

However, in a decree handed down last Friday, the magistrate overruled this decision, saying that a mistake had been made because of what had been said in court, and declared that the company had in fact been adequately notified and therefore the proceedings on Monday could continue where they left off.

Those charged alongside Fearne and Scicluna include former permanent secretaries Alfred Camilleri and Joseph Rapa, current permanent secretary Ronald Mizzi, adjudication committee members James Camenzuli, Manuel Castagna, and Robert Borg, financial controller Kenneth Deguara, and five lawyers: Kevin Deguara, Jean Carl Farrugia, Aron Mifsud Bonnici, Deborah Anne Chappell, and Bradley Gatt.

All of them have pleaded not guilty.

The magistrate’s decree holds important legal ramifications.  It means that the case officially began on 29 May, and that in turn means that the 30-day period by which time the magistrate must decide whether there is enough prima facie evidence – or sufficient grounds – to substantiate the charges began on that day too.

This was brought up by defence lawyers, who complained that it was unfair and unjust that they only had 11 days now to analyse the mountain of documents in Magistrate Gabriella Vella’s inquiry, when they were under the impression that the full 30 days had not started yet.

Magistrate Caruana re-confirmed his decision and that the case – and therefore the period for consideration of prima facie evidence – had begun at that first sitting.

This prompted the army of defence lawyers to stand up in unison in order to request that the magistrate recuse himself from the case.

Defence lawyer Ezekiel Psaila, reading the request, said that there had been no material change in matters which would have merited a decree in favour of the Attorney General’s decision as there had been.

Psaila also said that the defence felt that the court was handling the defence’s submissions differently to how it was handling those of the Attorney General, and said that it was also prejudiced by a court decision to allow only one lawyer to speak on behalf of everyone.

Lawyer Stephen Tonna Lowell said that the court’s position is prejudicing the defence because 19 days of the 30 allowed by the law have already passed, when the defence thought that the compilation proceedings would begin today on 17 June.

He said that an “element of surprise” had been created, leaving the defence in an impossible position to make its defence.

Lawyer Franco Debono was equally unhappy at the court, reiterating that even in a case where there are two people accused, the case takes double the time because each accused has a right to their own representation.  The same could be said today, and it was the prosecution’s decision to charge everybody together, Debono said.

“I’ve never been in a situation where the court has given a decree, where I think the whole country was under the impression that it said what it said – that the proceedings have been negated – and with a decree on Friday suddenly it’s said to not be true,” Debono continued.

He said that the prosecution had made mistakes not the defence, and that we are only in this situation because of the “confused” way that the prosecution had issued the charges.

“When the court said that ‘the consequences are what they are’ everybody understood what those were,” Debono said.  “At some point in time these people were faced with the situation that the compilation had actually started,” he said, pointing at the accused behind him.

“This is tremendous, irremediable prejudice which is intrinsically unjust,” he said.

Lead prosecutor and Attorney General lawyer Francesco Refalo said that the case was only in this juncture because the defence had “misguided” the court in the first place, a remark that the defence took umbrage to.

Magistrate Caruana was unmoved by the defence’s request for his recusal, and he rejected it saying that the law makes very specific stipulations for when a recusal can or cannot happen, and quoting from a decree from another case which states that a recusal is not a matter of convenience but a matter of justice which is regulated by the Criminal Code.

The magistrate said that a recusal request requires a concrete reason from the defence and not the defence merely claiming alleged impartiality on the part of the magistrate.

He also remarked that he had always allowed the defence lawyers to make their points but had merely asked them not to repeat themselves so to not waste the court’s time.

With that the case continued with the summoning of three witnesses: Tax Commissioner Joseph Caruana, Court Registrar Franklin Calleja, and Police Inspector Rennie Stivala.

Caruana detailed how he had been asked to give permission to the Police to charge Kenneth Deguara and Deborah Ann Chappell in line with Article 83(1) in the VAT Act.

He told the court that criminal investigations were not his responsibility, but rather were the responsibility of the police.

Calleja on his part could not present the magisterial inquiry as he was requested to do because it had not all been scanned yet by court staff.  There were 1.5 million pages to be scanned, and Calleja estimated that there were three boxes out of the 78 still to go and they should be finished soon.

He also faced questions on the chain of custody of the inquiry and the associated evidence, saying that he had handed over the originals to the Attorney General when the inquiring magistrate completed the inquiry on 25 April.

Defence lawyer Stefano Filletti disputed that the law dictates that a copy – not the original – of the inquiry should have been sent to both the AG and the Police Commissioner, but Calleja had sent the original to just the AG and not the Police Commissioner.

Calleja said that it was practice to send the original, and that he had done as ordered by the inquiring magistrate.

Finally, police inspector Rennie Stivala – who assisted the inquiring magistrate between October 2019 and April 2021 – took the witness stand.

He said that back in 2019 he had been assigned together with Inspectors Antonovic Muscat and Christabel Chetcuti, who moved onto another section of the police soon after.

Stivala explained that he would assist the magistrate in summoning witnesses as the magistrate deemed fit.  In October 2020, the first set of searches was carried out in various company premises and residences relating, particularly, to the company Technoline and MTrace Ltd.

Devices were seized with the assistance of magistrate-appointed expert Keith Cutajar and were presented in the inquiry.  Searches were done two days later at Malta’s telecommunications companies, again oriented at Technoline.

Stivala said that he worked on the inquiry until April 2021 and recalls that as he was handing over the case, searches were carried out at Nexia BT and at a couple of other residences belonging to Pierre Sladden and Ivan Vassallo.

Facing cross-examination, Stivala said that his role had been simply to follow the instructions of the inquiring magistrate, particularly within the context of summoning witnesses to testify, and he had no investigative role in the case whatsoever.

He said that he had attended some 15 sittings where the magistrate questioned witnesses but only because he felt that since he had been the one to summon the witnesses, he should be the one to coordinate them.

Stivala also said that no foreign experts were with the magistrate as individuals were being questioned.

 

The case will continue on Friday morning.

15:29: Magistrate Caruana suggests continuing this case on Friday at 10am.  A couple of the lawyers would like an end time to be set for the sitting for logistical purposes.  Magistrate Caruana says the sitting will conclude at 1:30pm on that day.

Inspector Scerri will testify on that date and the sitting ends there - thank you for following!


15:23: Tonna Lowell believes that it’s a good idea to end the sitting here, and also asks for time to answer the request.

Debono says meanwhile that such requests are usually made for accused who are being difficult to trace to come to court or are being problematic to notify, and there is no need for this in this case because the accused had always come when summoned.


15:20: There is one more witness for the day – Inspector Anthony Scerri, who succeeded Stivala in assisting the inquiring magistrate – but magistrate Caruana is considering ending the sitting here.

The prosecution says that there is still the request for freezing orders to be handled, at which point Debono stands to say that he hopes that no such request is going to be made when the accused have not even been given a copy of the inquiry.

Refalo states that the prosecution will make another request.  He requests that the accused notify – not seek permission, but merely notify – the court when they are going abroad and ensure that they are in the country and present in the courtroom when the case is scheduled to be heard.

He also requests that the accused be barred from commenting publicly on the evidence in the case and the case itself in order for justice to be administered.


15:17: She now asks whether her client Aron Mifsud Bonnici had ever been summoned for questioning or had ever been subject to a search.  Stivala says that insofar as he was involved in the inquiry, he was not summoned or subject to a search.

Lawyer David Farrugia Sacco now asks whether he had given any indications himself on what work had to be done in relation to the investigation, to which Stivala says that he did not have access to the information to do this.  He again repeats that there was no investigative work done on his part which he was involved in the inquiry.

Stivala’s testimony ends there.


15:10: Things are getting tetchy between the two: Debono asks the magistrate to stop the inspector from passing remarks in his answers, Stivala says that he is simply answering the questions.

The lawyer’s questions are now focused on the police file.  Stivala says that media reportage on the case would be among the documents placed into this file.  Debono questions why therefore other documents associated in the inquiry were not entered into the file, to which Stivala replies that this it is procedure for the police’s media section to send media coverage on cases through to the respective case file.

Lawyer Gianella De Marco now asks whether any foreign experts had accompanied the inquiring magistrate when she was questioning witnesses.  Stivala replies that to his recollection, there were no such experts present.


15:05: Debono now asks whether Stivala used to be present and used to participate in the magistrate’s questioning of witnesses.  The inspector replies that he would be present for most, but not participating.

Debono asks in what capacity the inspector would be present while the magistrate asked questions if his role was only to summon witnesses.  Stivala says that his job was to assist the magistrate, and he used to ensure that the witnesses had turned up.

The lawyer continues to angle on this point and asks whether the magistrate ordered him to be present.  Stivala says he doesn’t think it’s an order but the magistrate would expect the person who summoned the witnesses to be there to ensure that they were there at the time summoned.


15:00: Stivala is asked whether he recalled the names Bradley Gatt – who he does not recall; James Camenzuli – who he believes might have been one of the hundred or so witnesses heard while he was on the case; and Joseph Rapa – who he says was summoned as a witness.

Filletti asks the inspector to confirm that there was no police file or investigation on the matter.  Stivala clarifies that there was a police file to cater for the gathering of documents and so on, but no investigation.

Stivala says that he was assigned to assist the magistrate in the course of her inquiry, and not to carry out his own investigations.  Filletti asks about whether he had summoned Deborah Chappell and Alfred Camilleri, and Stivala says he hadn’t.

He now asks whether the inspector had given any disclosure to Joseph Rapa when he was summoned to testify. “I don’t believe we gave him any documents,” Stivala says.  Filletti asks whether Rapa was alone, but Stivala has a fuzzy memory and recalls that there may have been people present with Rapa.


14:54: Stivala, who is stationed in the police’s financial crimes wing, now returns and is asked to detail his involvement in the inquiry.

He says that back in 2019 he had been assigned together with Inspectors Antonovic Muscat and Christabel Chetcuti, who moved onto another section of the police soon after.

Stivala explains that he would assist the magistrate in summoning witnesses as the magistrate deemed fit.  In October 2020, the first set of searches were carried out in various company premises and residences relating, particularly, to the company Technoline and MTrace Ltd.

Devices were seized with the assistance of magistrate-appointed expert Keith Cutajar and were presented in the inquiry.  Searches were done two days later at Malta’s telecommunications companies, again oriented at Technoline.

Stivala says that he worked on the inquiry until April 2021 and recalls that as he was handing over the case, searches were carried out at Nexia BT and at a couple of other residences belonging to Pierre Sladden and Ivan Vassallo.

Documents seized at these searches were presented by the police in the inquiry and he had no real visibility as to what was in them.


14:44: Police inspector Rennie Stivala is up next, but Debono makes an observation first.

He observes that usually the police inspectors responsible for the case are asked to testify, but in this “anomalous” situation, the two inspectors who would eventually testify were both present in the courtroom while witnesses testified.

Prosecutor Refalo states that one of the two inspectors – Wayne Borg – had already testified in the last sitting.


14:40: Debono asks where the inquiry and the evidence is being held, to which Calleja replies that they are in the court’s safe. “Even the devices?”, Debono asks. “Yes,” Calleja replies. “And they’re all there?”, Debono asks. “Yes,” Calleja replies.

Filletti quotes the law and says that the Registrar should have sent a copy, but points out it was the original which had been sent to the AG.  Calleja replies that this was the case, but notes that this happens in all cases.

“Do you get your powers from the inquiring magistrate or the law?,” Tonna Lowell now asks Calleja. The registrar hesitates and then replies that the magistrate's order followed the law.


14:33: Court Registrar Franklin Calleja is up next.

He says that he was asked to present Gabriella Vella’s magisterial inquiry from the case against Joseph Muscat in this case as well.

Calleja says that he is not in a position to present the inquiry today due to the sheer volume of evidence within it – over 1.5 million pages.  He says that there are three out of the 78 boxes left to be scanned and so the process should be completed by tonight.

Filletti is questioning Calleja about the timeline of when and where the inquiry was moved around.  Calleja says that it came to him on 25 April from the inquiring magistrate and then was sent to the Attorney General’s office on the same day.

Debono asks whether the inquiry was sent to anyone else other than the AG’s office.  Calleja says replies in the negative, not even to the Police Commissioner. 

Debono is citing from a legal disposition which stipulates that when an inquiry is concluded it must be sent by the registrar to the Police Commissioner, besides the AG. “On my part as a registrar I did not know what was in the inquiry and the boxes… if the magistrate sent a copy through her staff to the Police, I don’t know.  The magistrate simply told me that it had to go to the AG,” Calleja said.


14:22: Caruana returns to the witness stand and says that the request was on 2 May, a week after the magisterial inquiry on the case was concluded.

It’s Stefano Filletti’s turn and he asks whether the permission was sought to investigate or to prosecute, to which Caruana replies that the request by practice is to investigate and to prosecute in the case that wrongdoing is found.

Caruana’s testimony ends and he departs the witness stand.


14:19: Franco Debono asks the witness whether any investigations had been carried out into Chappell and Deguara, but Caruana again says that this was not his responsibility.

Debono asks whether the permission was sought by the police verbally or in writing, to which Caruana says that it was in writing, and Debono then asks when this was.  Caruana doesn’t remember, and his testimony is briefly suspended so that he can go outside to make a phone call to try and establish this information.  


14:16: The next step is to hear the first witness: Tax Commissioner Joe Caruana

He was asked to give permission to the Police to charge Kenneth Deguara and Deborah Ann Chappell in line with Article 83(1) in the VAT Act.

Facing questions from the defence lawyer Roberto Montalto, the Commissioner says that the letter had been the product of a request by the Police Commissioner for permission to “investigate”, in this case, Deborah Ann Chappell. Her defence lawyer says that the letter in question seeks permission to “charge” Chappell not investigate her.

The defence asks the official whether the police had ever said why it wanted to investigate Chappell, to which he replies that the reasons are detailed in the letter.

He is asked whether he personally felt that Chappell had done anything wrong, and he replies that he only signed off on the requests by the police.

Caruana adds that up to that point he had not seen anything illegal in what Chappell had done but reminded that criminal investigations are not his responsibility, but rather that of the police.


14:03: Magistrate Caruana reads out his decree and first provides a recap of the reasons for the defence’s request for recusal. He says that the law makes very specific stipulations for when a recusal can or cannot happen, and quotes from a decree from another case which states that a recusal is not a matter of convenience but a matter of justice which is regulated by the Criminal Code.

The magistrate says that a recusal request requires a concrete reason from the defence and not the defence merely claiming alleged impartiality on the part of the magistrate.

He also remarks that he had always allowed the defence lawyers to make their points but had merely asked them not to repeat themselves so to not waste the court’s time.

Magistrate Caruana therefore rejects the recusal request.  The defence remains sitting silently, and the case goes on.


13:53: Magistrate Caruana returns to the court room and we can get underway again.


13:48: And everyone is now back into the courtroom.  Still we wait.


13:41: Scratch that, all the lawyers – both from the AG’s office and the defence – have now departed the courtroom.  Chamber of Advocates President Peter Fenech was leading them out. We aren’t quite sure why everyone has left, but maybe we’ll find out when the sitting restarts.


13:37: Lawyers from both sides – and the media – are back in their places as we all await Magistrate Caruana to return for the sitting to get underway again.


12:59: We’re just over half an hour away from the court resuming so it’s good to recap a bit.  The issue which is currently at hand concerns a decision by magistrate Caruana which effectively declared that the company DF Advocates had in fact been correctly notified when prior to the first sitting last month.

That reversed a decree that the magistrate had given on that day – 29 May – which had, in all people’s minds effectively rendered what had happened in that 10 and a half hour sitting as null.  The decree reversing this was handed down on Friday, and that means that the proceedings in the case had begun back on 29 May.

This is important: Maltese criminal law states that once the case begins, the court has up to 30 days to decide whether there is enough prima facie evidence – meaning that there is sufficient grounds – for there to be a case against the accused.

The defence had thought that because the first sitting had been annulled, those 30 days would start today.  But with the magistrate reversing his previous decree, it means that 19 days out of those 30 have now already elapsed.

The defence has now demanded the recusal of the magistrate – which is what he will rule on when court returns to session – but it is unlikely that this will succeed.  One can however expect the defence to seek a constitutional reference on the matter, which would grind the case to a halt.


11:53: Magistrate Caruana suspends the sitting, and says the court will reconvene at 13:30.


11:49: Debono is still not happy and says that the defence should have the serenity to do its job, not somehow feel like their work is merely being tolerated.  He again says it is unfair that the accused were all under the impression that the proceedings had not started but suddenly that changed on Friday.

“When the court said that ‘the consequences are what they are’ everybody understood what those were,” Debono said.  “At some point in time these people were faced with the situation that the compilation had actually started,” he says, pointing at the accused behind him.

“This is tremendous, irremediable prejudice which is intrinsically unjust,” he says.

He also says that the inquiry has not been exhibited in the case and questions what is different from this case to any other.


11:43: Refalo says that the prosecution will be objecting to the request for recusal.  Debono sarcastically quips: “Of course.”

Refalo continues that the law is clear as to when and why a magistrate should recuse him or herself from a case.  He says he would like to rebut the defence and reminds that it was the defence which had “misguided” the court.  Psaila takes offence to the remark and says that the defence had not misguided anyone until he is told by the magistrate to take his place again.

The points referred to by the court are not relevant to the recusal of a magistrate and are in the complete discretion of the same magistrate, Refalo says.

“Just because a decree that one part or another may not like is handed down, that doesn’t result in the recusal of a court which is trying to keep order so that justice can be administered,” Refalo adds.


11:34: Psaila said that it was the prosecution which decided to charge all the parties involved – 16 individuals – in this case, there is a situation where the right for every accused to be defended by their appointed lawyer and for them to make submissions in their name.

Tonna Lowell says that the court’s position is prejudicing the defence because 19 days of the 30 allowed by the law have already passed, when the defence thought that the compilation proceedings would begin today on 17 June. 

He says that an “element of surprise” had been created, leaving the defence in an impossible position to make its defence.

Franco Debono is equally unhappy at the court, reiterating that even in a case where there are two people accused, the case takes double the time because each accused has a right to their own representation.  The same can be said today, and it was the prosecution’s decision to charge everybody together, Debono said.

“I’ve never been in a situation where the court has given a decree, where I think the whole country was under the impression that it said what it said – that the proceedings have been negated – and with a decree on Friday suddenly it’s said to not be true,” Debono continues.

He says  that the prosecution had made mistakes not the defence, and that we are only in this situation because of the “confused” way that the prosecution had issued the charges.

“I have full respect to the courts, but it’s good to understand who made the mistakes here,” he said.


11:29: Lawyer Ezekiel Psaila now rises to make another request, and the whole army of defence lawyers stands up with him.  Psaila informs the court that the defence as a whole was requesting the magistrate’s recusal.

Psaila says that because of the handlig of proceedings and the fact that a decree from this same court on how the prosecution should regulate itself with regards to DF Advocates had changed despite there being that there was no material change for this to merit a decree in favour of the Attorney General.

Subsequently, the defence had also requested the court to pronounce from now on the relevance or otherwise of Article 121D of the Criminal Code [which governs Corporate Liability] and the court chose to abstain from taking note of this.

“The defence therefore feels that the court is handling the defence’s submissions differently to how it is handling those of the Attorney General.  The defence also feels prejudiced about how the procedures are being conducted because it feels that all that was put forward against our clients apparently need to be done by just one lawyer,” Psaila said.


11:19: Magistrate Caruana decrees that it has considered the decree from 2016 presented by the defence to substantiate its request and says that the submissions do not change anything from the fact that the proceedings begin when the charges are read out and confirmed under oath, which happened on 29 May.

Therefore, the defence’s request is refused and the previous decree is confirmed.


11:16: The court has been sitting in an uncharacteristic silence for the last five minutes.  The magistrate is currently considering the defence’s request.  Whispering between the various sets of lawyers can be heard.


11:13: Mercieca rises to make a point and asks the court once again to “be patient” – a remark which the magistrate doesn’t take kindly to: “This thing that the court must have patience with you all… cut it out.”

Mercieca is asked to verbalise his request.  He presents a copy of a decree from a 2016 case saying that the court had based its own decree and says that the magistrate’s decree is irregular within the context of the precedents set by this 2016 decree and asks for it to be revoked.

Other lawyers join in, saying that it is unjust that the defence is not being given the full 30 days provided by law, and that they had acted as if the 30 days would start from today.

Lead prosecutor Francesco Refalo says that the prosecution objects to the defence’s request and will rely on the magistrate’s decree.


11:08: Magistrate Caruana is back in the courtroom and begins to read out his decree.  He is promptly interrupted by lawyer Charles Mercieca who asks a procedural question.

The court says that in the proceedings on 29 May, the charges were read and confirmed under oath and therefore considered that the proceedings had started upon the reading of the charges – which happened on 29 May, and therefore it is that date which must be taken as the start of the case and therefore the start of the 30-day period for prime facie evidence to be considered.


10:52: While we wait, it’s good to recap what has been happening behind the scenes.

On Friday the magistrate decreed and upheld the Attorney General’s application requesting a reconsideration of the nullity declaration, arguing that DF had always been notified.

In his decree, the magistrate had stated that a mistake had been made because of what was said in court.

On Saturday, lawyers representing DF filed an application, asking to have Friday’s decree overturned once again. That was the application which was refused at the beginning of today’s sitting and why everything has continued from where it left off.

10:31  Franco Debono asks the court to bear in mind that all this trouble was because of the choices of the prosecution and its excess haste in issuing charges. He repeats the question about when the prima facie period began. The magistrate responds: “You have been a lawyer for 20-30 years. Some of the best legal minds in Malta are here and they can’t figure out when the proceedings began?” Adopting a more gentle tone, Giannella De Marco asks for clarification whether the time frame begins today or at the last sitting. “So we do not commit mistakes like the other side.” Tonna Lowell explains that if it began on the 29, it would mean that the lawyers had to read thousands of pages in a much shorter timeframe. 

10:28  Filetti insists that the defence of his clients is going to be fatally compromised. “Today, 19 days have passed since the first appearance, after a postponement because of the prosecution and therefore only 11 or 12 days remain for the close of prima facie. At the time of this note, the defence has not been provided with anything except the conclusions of the inquiring magistrate, when it is well known that both the Attorney General and the police had far more information in their hands than what they gave us.” The defence said it wished to underline that it was still currently impossible to see the evidence for prima facie.

10:27  Filletti continues saying that an application was filed late by the AG asking for the court to revoke its decree on DF Advocates. "What's the point of your note?" the court asks. "Ħu paċenzja..." Filletti says, roughly translating to “be patient”. "Nieħu paċenzja? The court wants to know what's your point as this has been settled," the magistrate replies. 

10:25 Lawyer Stefano Filletti asks whether the 30-day period for prima facie begins today or began at the last sitting. He dictates a note stating that on 29 May, the court had decreed that a party to these proceedings had not been validly notified, with all the legal consequences this carried with it. He said that the court had decreed the proceedings null. “No no no no,” interrupts the magistrate. “If you’re going to attribute something to me, quote the decree correctly.” That was the defence’s interpretation, he says.

10:13  Refalo says the prosecution obeyed every decree handed down by this court, and every document that should have been provided to the defendant or his lawyer, has been done so. But Galea rebuts: “I am asking a direct question. Besides this email is there any other evidence?” 

10:12  Franco Galea dictates a note, asking that before the evidence is exhibited in these proceedings, the court should ensure that its decree on disclosure is adhered to. Secondly, he asks that, in relation to his client, that the prosecution declare if it has other evidence, except an email dated 26 January 2015, which it should provide to his client. Meanwhile Franco Debono returns to the courtroom and takes his seat once again. 

10:09 Debono is shouting: “Our position is first we must know where the documents were obtained from. If we aren’t told, we are going to demand an investigation. I will make this clear.” However, the magistrate says this complaint would be dealt with at a later stage. This does not go down well with Debono, who is fidgeting with clear annoyance. He stands up and storms out of the courtroom. 

10:08  Debono continues: this document was filed in an anomalous manner and we are asking to have the person who filed it testify. “It’s a very simple request.” Debono continues to complain from his position. Spiteri dictates a note: Identity documents are never exhibited by representatives of the entities but are then confirmed by those representatives at a later stage, if required, during the prosecution evidence. 

10:04  Debono, on behalf of the defence, requests that once a document has been exhibited by the prosecution, the person who exhibited should testify about it. Lawyer Franco Galea, on behalf of Bradley Gatt, submits that in spite of the court’s decree last Friday, authorising the prosecution to correct the charges without needing to notify the defendants once again, he was reserving his position. “We aren’t discussing this, sit down,” replies the magistrate. Galea goes on: “The Criminal Code does not allow him to contest this at this stage, but his lack of contestation should in no way be interpreted as acquiesence to the procedure being adopted in this case.” The court makes reference to its previous decree and says it was holding firm. 

09:57  Rebekah Spiteri, a lawyer from the Attorney General’s office, hands over copies of documents, including the birth certificates of the individuals and a letter from the tax commissioner, one by one. Debono agitated: “Where did she get that document from? Since when do we exhibit documents without authorisation?” Magistrate tells the defence to wait its turn, as the prosecution was currently addressing the court. Francesco Refalo, also a lawyer from the Attorney General’s office, points out that the documents had already been exhibited. 

09:51  The court read out its decree: It noted that it had been asked to revoke its decree about the notification on DF Advocates as it was not a separate legal entity. Magistrate Caruana observed that this complaint had already been raised and dealt with, and therefore saw no reason to revoke its previous decree. The court directs the deputy registrar to proceed with the examination of Jean Carl Farrugia and Kenneth Deguara as representatives of DF advocates. Franco Debono says they will not be replying and would be remaining silent. 

09:50  The magistrate was handing down a decree when defence lawyer Franco Debono interrupted him, demanding to know whether DF Advocates had been notified. Dictating a note on behalf of DF Advocates, Debono, Jonathan Thompson and Ezekiel Psaila said they were only appearing to contest the existence, the notification and the charges against the firm. “This must in no way be interpreted as meaning that DF Advocates was notified with these proceedings. “The fact that I came here contesting, doesn’t mean the notification is valid. Otherwise I would end up in a legal void.”

 

 

 

 

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