Opposition entitled to full scrutiny of Egrant inquiry, Delia tells court

The PN leader said that his role required him to start a debate in public, on issues of national importance, adding that his right to freedom of speech in this context also required him to have access to information

The conclusions from Aaron Bugeja’s Egrant inquiry report should have been enough to address the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s personal interest in the inquiry, Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia told this court this morning.

Delia gave his testimony in a constitutional case he filed against Attorney General Peter Grech, in which he is requesting a full copy of the Egrant inquiry report. 

The inquiry’s conclusions were published just over a month ago, however, the AG has said that he was against the entire inquiry being made public over fears that doing so could hinder ongoing investigations and expose sensitive information about people who had no connection to the case.

READ MORE: The Egrant magisterial inquiry report released by the Attorney General

Delia argued that the inquiry’s conclusions addressed all the questions raised in the inquiry’s terms of reference, stressing that this meant that the conclusions alone would have been enough to give the Prime Minister “the satisfaction he needed”.

Given that the AG felt that the whole inquiry should be granted to the Prime Minister because it was necessary for him to carry out his constitutional role, then the same should apply to himself, as leader of the Opposition. 

“The contents of the other 1,400 pages, if they were, as the AG has said, necessary for the Prime Minister to see, should by the same measure also be given to me to carry out my role of scrutinising the government’s actions,” he said. 

The PN leader said that his role required him to start a debate in public, on issues of national importance, adding that his right to freedom of speech in this context also required him to have access to information. 

Delia also noted that he couldn’t be certain that the document had not been sent to other people since it arrived on the Prime Minister’s desk.

“I don’t know whether other people have been given a copy of the whole report, and I have a right to know. I don’t know if Pilatus Bank, or the Azerbaijani state have been given a copy,” he insisted. 

Moreover, he said it was evident that the inquiry report was being used by Muscat for political purposes. 

“A few days ago, the leader of Labour Party said that the trust signatures were not the only forgeries. So, the leader of the Labour Party knows something that I don’t and is being given the privilege of using this information,” continued Delia. 

He pointed to the fact that there were various people mentioned in the inquiry who had political roles and who worked for the government. 

For example, he said that the inquiry had found that OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri held two accounts at Pilatus Bank, and that that bank had a 78-page long ‘know your client’ form on Schembri. 

READ MORE: Adrian Delia files judicial protest against Attorney General

“Should I presume that these forms are also in the full inquiry?,” he asked.

Furthermore, he said the inquiry had found that there had been only a few small transactions involving these accounts. 

“A little what? What is a little? Hundreds, thousands, millions? I can’t raise important political points on whether he should be kept in government because the Attorney General has not given me the information.”  

Similarly, he said that the inquiry had found that there were no dealings with people from Azerbaijan. Again, Delia asked what exactly this meant and whether the term people included corporate entities or indeed the state. 

Turning to Schembri’s BVI company Willerby Trade Inc, Delia again said that the inquiry had identified transactions involving the company’s accounts but said that they were the subject of another ongoing inquiry. He said that while the transactions might have gone beyond the scope of the inquiry’s terms of reference, “they could be essential in determining political responsibility”. 

“Every line I read I don’t see anything that is in the Prime Minister’s personal interest, but I see information that is crucial from a political perspective, where there is a clear and flagrant public interest, which the AG has admitted exists, and which has been given to the Prime Minister and not the Opposition leader.” 

The AG’s office argued that while the two roles were enshrined in the constitution, they were also, by their nature, distinct. Moreover, the AG’s office also pointed out that Delia had requested both that a copy be given to him, as well as that one be made public.

The AG’s office asked whether, given that the publication of the report was not related to his right to information,  Delia still wanted to pursue its publication, to which he said he did. 

At the start of the sitting Delia’s lawyer, Vincent Galea, presented the court with a list of witnesses that he is planning to call as part of the case.  

At one point, during a back and forth between the AG and Galea, regarding whether his office should submit its list of witnesses at the same time, the AG said that the case had been filed “for the newspapers”. 

Delia objected to this, saying he felt offended at the AG’s remarks, especially when one considered the nature of the case. “We are asking the court for a declaration about a breach of the constitution.”

The AG’s office must now submit its list of witnesses within two days. The case will continue on 11 September. 

 

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