Hair-splitting continues as Panama appeals drag on

Objections by lawyers representing the Prime Minister, six high-ranking government officials and their associates who filed appeals against a magistrate’s decision to investigate them over Panama Papers, featured prominently in a sitting before the constitutional court

The protagonists in the ongoing Panama Papers court case, which has dragged on with one appeal after another (File photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
The protagonists in the ongoing Panama Papers court case, which has dragged on with one appeal after another (File photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

It was a day for objections in front of Mr Justice Joseph Zammit McKeon on Tuesday as he continued hearing the constitutional case filed by former Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil to stop a judge married to a Labour MEP from hearing the Panama Papers appeals.

Busuttil had gone to court last summer asking the inquiring magistrate to investigate several individuals, including the Prime Minister, his chief of staff Keith Schembri and minister Konrad Mizzi, over their involvement in Panama Papers and the possibility they may have been involved in money laundering. The case came before Magistrate Ian Farrugia, who decided to proceed with the inquiry.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Schembri, Mizzi, Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna and Karl Cini, Kasco Group general manager Malcolm Scerri and former Allied Newspapers managing director, Adrian Hillman, appealed the magistrate's decision.

The appeals ended up in front of Judge Antonio Mizzi, the husband of Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi. Busuttil called for the judge to recuse himself but Mizzi ruled against. Subsequently, Busuttil filed a constitutional case to overturn Mizzi's decision. The case is being heard in front of Zammit McKeon.

The case before Mizzi is in suspended animation, pending the outcome of the Zammit McKeon proceedings.

In today's sitting, Attorney General Peter Grech objected to Busuttil’s lawyer, Jason Azzopardi, presenting the court with official transcripts of submissions before Mizzi in August, and to the exhibition of a legal copy of the decrees by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja in both of Simon Busuttil’s applications to the court, saying they were "irrelevant" to the proceedings. 

Law professor Ian Refalo, defending Hillman, also objected to Busuttil’s exhibition of a MaltaToday report on a speech by MEP Marlene Mizzi last August, saying that “this was the proof that she was reported as saying something, but not that she actually said it” and therefore fell short of being the best evidence presentable.

A number of lawyers told the court that they had not been notified with a note filed by Azzopardi on Friday, so the judge ordered that they be notified there and then. A court messenger took the initiative to serve the lawyers with the acts during the sitting, earning himself praise from the judge for his sense of duty.

The case continues on February 13.