Busuttil hints at financial interest in seeking recusal of Panama Papers Judge

Former PN leader Simon Busuttil says he does not doubt integrity of Judge Antonio Mizzi but insists on his recusal from an appeal case filed against Panama Papers inquiry application

The Constitutional Court is hearing an appeal on Judge Antonio Mizzi’s recusal
The Constitutional Court is hearing an appeal on Judge Antonio Mizzi’s recusal

There could be a remote financial interest at stake, and which could influence the decisions of Judge Antonio MIzzi if he were to preside over a Panama Papers case, former Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil told the Constitutional Court today.

Referring to the fact that Judge Mizzi is married to MEP Marlene Mizzi, Busuttil said that “this fact alone means that there is a difficulty for the judge to continue with the case. Even if she never spoke of the case, the fact that they are married creates a difficulty.”

“Remote as it may be, there could be a financial interest,” he told Judge Joseph Zammit Mackeon, explaining that the honorarium given to Mizzi by her position is not an insignificant one, but could amount to €100,000 a year.  He pointed out that there was a community of acquests between the couple.

Busuttil filed the constitutional case in October 2017 after Judge Mizzi refused to recuse himself from hearing an appeal filed by several high profile members of government.

Busuttil had filed an application before magistrate Ian Farrugia back in July last year, then calling for an investigation into the Panama Papers, as well as high profile Maltese individuals.

The purpose of the inquiry is to establish whether money-laundering laws were breached by government officials, in opening offshore companies in Panama, as well as opaque financial structures in New Zealand. Magistrate Farrugia later decreed that the pre-requisites for a magisterial inquiry had been satisfied.

The seven individuals mentioned in the application – Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, as well as businessmen Brian Tonna, Karl Cini, Malcolm Scerri and Adrian Hillman – filed an application, asking for the revocation of Farrugia’s decree.

The appeal is being heard by judge Antonio Mizzi.

Today, Busuttil testified as to how Marlene Mizzi had spoken of the Panama Papers case publicly.

“She spoke not only in her speeches in the European Parliament, but also through facebook posts in which she made political points, as well as arguments and insults against me,” he said.

There is a clear link between Mizzi and the Judge in the way she expresses herself publicly, which are also related to his job as a judge, Busuttil said.

Furthermore, Busuttil said that Judge Mizzi had “openly” shown hostility towards him and his lawyer, Jason Azzopardi, in the past.

However, Busuttil clarified that he had “no doubt whatsoever” as to the integrity of Justice Mizzi.

“It is not the first time that the Judge recused himself for similar – if not identical – instances,” Busuttil, referring specifically to a case of the police against Daphne Caruana Galizia, in which he accepted the request to recuse himself due to his wife’s position as MEP. “This is precisely the same as my case.”

Busuttil said that the matter was of public interest, and insisted he was not acting out of personal interest. “As a citizen, I want to see justice served.”

The case continues. Justice Joseph Zammit McKeon is presiding over the case. Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is assisting Busuttil.