Appeal against ‘procedurally wrong’ decision to hold money laundering inquiry

A total of seven appeals have been filed against Magistrate Ian Farrugia’s decision, which gives the go-ahead for a magisterial inquiry to be held over money laundering allegations

A lawyer who filed one of the seven appeals against Magistrate Ian Farrugia’s decision to launch an inquiry into money laundering allegations, said that the clients are arguing that the request is “procedurally wrong”.

MaltaToday has been refused a copy of the appeal application by the courts, but one of the lawyers who filed it explained that the appeal application says that the prerequisites for a magisterial inquiry (known as the in genere) do not exist.

A total of seven appeals have been filed against Farrugia’s decision, which gives the go-ahead for a magisterial inquiry to be held over money laundering allegations levelled against OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi by Opposition leader Simon Busuttil.

The request would also see Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna and Karl Cini as well as Kasco Group general manager Malcolm Scerri and former Allied Newspapers managing director, Adrian Hillman, investigated.

The appeals were filed before Judge Antonio Mizzi, who was on duty at the criminal court when the appeals were filed.

“Busuttil's application basically recounted the many things he had been saying before the election and added some quotes from the Pana committee. Now to hold an inquiry, the crime must be clear, specific, persons and actions pinpointed and the application didn't contain this information,” one of the lawyers told MaltaToday.

The lawyer said he felt that the request for an inquiry was procedurally wrong, irrespective of Magistrate Ian Farrugia's decision to uphold it.

The magistrate didn't specify the reasons why he upheld the request, added the lawyer.

After the reply was filed, he claimed to have found out that Simon Busuttil had filed a note, “together with some screenshots of news articles,” asking to view their reply and magistrate Farrugia had not informed him of this.

“The law provides for an application and a reply,” said the lawyer, “but here we have a reply, a counter reply and so on. Procedurally, there are things we don't agree with.”

Seven applications had to be filed because the court had to include every individual mentioned, including Scerri and Hillman.

“We couldn't let it go on in this case. It's not correct to do this in an inquiry.”

The role of the inquiry in genere was being eroded because of the leaking of acts to the media as soon as they were filed, he said.

Academically, Busuttil was trying to get the Magistrate to gather evidence for him, explained the lawyer. This defeated the purpose of an inquiring magistrate, whose role is to preserve evidence that is identified to him, not like the pubblico ministero in Italy, he added referring to Italy’s prosecutor.

The court is however expected to first tackle Busuttil's claim that the judge who will be hearing the appeal, Mr. Justice Antonio Mizzi, cannot carry out his duties properly because his wife – Marlene Mizzi – is a Labour MEP. Busuttil is seeking the judge’s recusal.

More in Court & Police