Appeal on judge’s recusal on money laundering inquiry now in Constitutional Court

A Constitutional Court is hearing an appeal against a decision by Judge Antonio Mizzi not to recuse himself from an appeal filed by the Prime Minister and high government officials protesting an inquiry into money laundering claims

Simon Busuttil (left) is insisting that Antonio Mizzi recuses himself on a case dealing with an investigation on money laundering
Simon Busuttil (left) is insisting that Antonio Mizzi recuses himself on a case dealing with an investigation on money laundering

A court has started hearing a Constitutional application filed by former PN leader Simon Busuttil, over the recusal of a judge.

Busuttil demanded the recusal of Antonio Mizzi on a request to open an investigation on allegations of money laundering by government officials implicated in the Panama Papers, because Mizzi’s wife is Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi.

Mizzi denied the request, and Busuttil has now filed a constitutional challenge to th decision.

The sitting had barely started when a lawyer from the Office of the Attorney General requested that the appellants in the case before Judge Mizzi – Prime Minister Joseph Muscay, minister Konrad Mizzi, the PM’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, Nexia BT partners Brian Tonna and Karl Cini, Kasco Group employee Malcolm Scerri and former Allied Publications director Adrian Hillman – be admitted as parties to the case as they had a juridical interest in its outcome.

This was opposed by lawyer and Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi, who argued that at this stage there was no finding of guilt and therefore there could be no juridical interest. He remarked that the AG “is apparently no longer the government’s lawyer, but had become the lawyer for the Prime Minister and the other appellants.”

In May, Simon Busuttil presented what he said was evidence of money laundering by Schembri and Mizzi to Magistrate Ian Farrugia. In July, Farrugia decreed there was sufficient basis to open a magisterial inquiry. His decision was appealed by the appellants implciated.

This appeal was supposed to be heard by Judge Antonio Mizzi, but Busuttil requested his recusal. Mizzi refused to step aside and this led to the Constitutional application, with Busuttil arguing the decision was breaching his fundamental rights.

Mizzi decided to stop hearing the appeal until the Constitutional proceedings are concluded.

Judge Joseph Zammit McKeon will deliver a ruling on the Attorney General’s request later this month. Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is appearing on behalf of Simon Busuttil whilst lawyer Victoria Buttigieg is representing the office of the Attorney General.