Ex-politician was accomplice in HSBC heist, Jason Azzopardi tells libel sitting

Azzopardi claimed that the heist mastermind was threatening witnesses via Signal

Lawyer and PN MP Jason Azzopardi has told a court that a certain "ex-politician" was an accomplice in the HSBC heist. 

The libel suit had been filed by Minister Carmelo Abela against Azzopardi over a Facebook post in which Azzopardi wrote “I am no saint... but better not to have been an accomplice in the HSBC hold-up.”

Azzopardi had also claimed that the HSBC heist mastermind was threatening witnesses via Signal.

Yesterday’s unpleasantness between Azzopardi and opposing counsel Pawlu Lia spilled over into this morning's sitting. Before the sitting began, magistrate Rachel Montebello warned both lawyers that their behaviour yesterday was “shameful, embarrassing and intolerable” and that if it happened again, the court would take the necessary steps.

Lia excused himself for yesterday’s outburst, but said he “could not accept that a lawyer would say such foolish things about a colleague.” The two lawyers bickered once again, with the court eventually telling Lia that he was being disrespectful to the court.

“This is childish behaviour,” said the magistrate, as the two men continued to argue, “this is not a political forum for political statements.”

Lia pointed out that he was not a politician. On his part, Azzopardi  said he was “not going to retract a single word” of what he said yesterday.

Lia insisted that in his 40 years of experience, he had never seen such things happening in court.

Azzopardi hit back, saying that he would not “allow a lawyer to censor his sworn testimony”, adding that the final decision on what is heard in court is ultimately in the court’s hands.

After calm was restored, the sitting resumed. Lia pointed out that the last sitting was held behind closed doors.

The lawyer asked the witness about the last part of a Facebook post where it was claimed that Abela had made some phone calls. “What calls are these and how do you know this?”

Resisting the question, Azzopardi said that it was something he had come to know “from other duties” of his.

“Let us just say for correctness' sake...the last line of my post, the reference is not to the applicant, and I can say that “accomplice” applies to another, ex-politician.” He offered to testify further behind closed doors.

Having received confirmation that the term “accomplice” in the post did not refer to Abela, the minister’s lawyer said that he had no further questions for the Azzopardi.

Lia said he would go over the evidence with his client and then reply.

The case continues in November.

Lawyer Joseph Zammit Maempel assisted Azzopardi.