Panama papers case: Keith Schembri, Adrian Hillman and Malcolm Scerri join AG in judge recusal appeal

The Prime Minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri and two business associates have endorsed the Attorney General's appeal from a constitutional court ruling that Judge Antonio Mizzi should recuse himself from the Panama Papers inquiry

Lawyers for Keith Schembri, Adrian Hillman and Malcolm Scerri have agreed with the Attorney General’s appeal for Judge Antonio Mizzi to recuse himself in a case involving the Panama Papers.

In July, a Constitutional court had ruled that Judge Mizzi should recuse himself from the Panama Papers case on account of the fact that he is married to Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi.

The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri, his business partner Malcolm Scerri and former Allied Newspapers managing director Adrian Hillman’s lawyers filed a reply to the Attorney General’s appeal against the recusal, endorsing the AG’s position.

READ MORE: Attorney General appeals recusal of Judge Antonio Mizzi from Panama Papers case

The three men, together with the Prime Minister, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna and Karl Cini, last year appealed a court decision ordering an inquiry into their role in the Panama Papers, which had been requested by former leader of the Opposition Simon Busuttil.

READ ALSO: Hair-splitting continues as Panama appeals drag on

In July 2017, Magistrate Ian Farrugia had given the go-ahead for the inquiry, but it was then stagnated by appeals filed by the seven men. 

Judge Mizzi had started to hear the appeal after refusing a request by Busuttil to recuse himself from the case, given that his wife had made several public proclamations about the Panama Papers. 

Busuttil had gone on to file Constitutional proceedings and the Constitutional Court had upheld his request. Attorney General Peter Grech had filed an appeal against this decision on July 26, arguing that an inquiry is only intended to preserve evidence and not to pass judgment, and that therefore none of Busuttil’s rights would be impinged upon if Mizzi were to hear the case.

The AG also argued that since any citizen can request an inquiry, Busuttil could not be considered a victim in this case, and that while Mizzi’s wife was a Labour MEP, he had his own ideas, principles and opinions.

In the court documents filed yesterday, Hillman claims that the inquiry is making his life difficult and that if there was any violation of rights, it would be his, saying he “found himself embroiled in a morass of allegations which principally arise from partisan politics, in which he is not involved in any way.”

“Certainly in his personal regard, any allegation of partiality on the part of the sitting judge is frivolous and baseless. Because of and as a result of these judicial manoeuvres, his rights to a fair hearing within a reasonable time are being violated,” he said.

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