Azzopardi: ‘Fenech spoke of eliminating me in 2019 over Electrogas criticism’

Caruana Galizia lawyer hits back at Yorgen Fenech complaint with Commissioner of Police over letter of protest to Chief Justice on judge presiding over bail request

Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi
Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi

The Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi has claimed he is the subject of a coordinated campaign of attacks by Yorgen Fenech, who he said, had wanted to “eliminate” him in 2019.

Azzopardi, a lawyer to the Caruana Galizias, filed the judicial protest this morning after Fenech’s lawyers filed proceedings against the Commissioner of Police in a bid to have Azzopardi and blogger Manuel Delia prosecuted for attempting to influence a judge.

Azzopardi denied the allegation that he and Delia had launched a “systematic attack” against Mr Justice Giovanni Grixti, while the judge was deliberating on Fenech’s bail application

Azzopardi said it was “shameful and astonishing” that the accused’s judicial protest revolved around the evident belief that Grixti was susceptible to influence or pressure. “This is an opinion… that is frankly, terrifying and this lawyer is stunned as to how the accused writes such a shocking assertion with such ease. Perhaps it is the case that he is using his own measure.”

The day that Grixti was slated to decide on bail for Fenech, which he denied, saw the publication of news that the judge had in 2008 acquired a boat that previously belonged to Fenech’s late father George, the Tumas magnate.

Azzopardi argued that the bail refusal handed down on 19 August was not influenced by anybody and emphasised that the reasons for refusal were identical to all other decrees refusing Fenech bail.

Azzopardi is claiming that despite the defence knowing the judge had given the Attorney General 24 hours to reply to their bail request, Fenech’s defence lawyer Charles Mercieca had already called the registry several times asking whether there had been a decree, something which noted as being odd by the court staff.

Azzopardi said he wrote to the Chief Justice informing him that Fenech filed his bail application on Monday 16 August, while Grixti was the duty judge. At the time, the acts of the case were still in the chambers of magistrate Rachel Montebello. Therefore, when the Attorney General replied on 17 August, the deadline given by Grixti, the acts had not even been received by him.

Azzoprdi said he had called the Registry of the Criminal Courts himself on 17 August, before the 12pm deadline, where he was told that Grixti had scheduled the bail hearing for the next day. When he asked how this could be given that the AG had not even filed his reply yet, the registrar told him: “I’m telling you what the judge told me.”

He argued that at that stage the Criminal Court was not yet competent as the acts had not been received by it.

Azzopardi also told the Chief Justice that Grixti had bought the 50ft-yacht Spensierata from George Fenech and that “up till at least 2012” Grixti, then a magistrate, would regularly meet George Fenech’s brother Ninu at his Qormi showroom for coffee and long conversations. “He is a friend of the Fenech family, Yorgen Fenech’s same family,” Azzopardi said, arguing that the judge should have never presided the bail hearing.

‘Coordinated Campaign’ against Azzopardi

Azzopardi also accused the Fenech defence of inventing a pretext to make it difficult for the Caruana Galizia legal team to carry out its duties.

He claimed that several times the parte civile had found out about Fenech’s court filings from the press.

The Caruana Galizia family lawyer also strongly denied the allegation that he was breaching the accused’s fundamental rights. “If we are going to talk about negative publicity for the accused, let us just mention that it was two of the accused’s own lawyers who generated a lot of negative publicity on the accused when a few months ago they were caught attempting to bribe a Times of Malta journalist.”

Lawyers Gianluca Caruana Curran and Charles Mercieca, who are representing Fenech, are themselves subjects of ongoing criminal proceedings before the Court of Magistrates in this regard.

Azzopardi also told the court he had personally seen a document in the acts of the case against Fenech, which contained “many tens of messages/chats between the accused and third parties, including politicians from both political parties (principally from the Government side) and well-known businessmen during 2019 which showed the unbridled hatred that the accused bears towards [Azzopardi] simply because he was one of the few MPs… who had strongly criticised the corruption of the Electrogas project…”

One of the communications allegedly tells a PN official that Azzopardi should be eliminated after the MEP elections in May 2019 – Azzopardi claimed – saying that Fenech was trying to do what he failed to do in 2019, “fabricating a lie in a judicial act that the protestor influenced judge Grixti in his duties.”

Azzopardi said he would be holding Fenech responsible for whatever damages the lawyer may suffer “as a result of the lies and baseless allegations made against him.”