Opposition leader’s role on Egrant inquiry ‘stultified’ by Attorney General

Lawyer for Opposition leader Adrian Delia accuses Attorney General of preventing him from informing public on matters of public interest

Opposition leader Adrian Delia outside the law courts
Opposition leader Adrian Delia outside the law courts

A lawyer for Opposition leader Adrian Delia has told a judge that Delia’s role was being stultified by the Attorney General.

Delia appeared in a court case he filed himself, in which he is demanding a copy of the Egrant inquiry report.

The conclusions from Magistrate Aaron Bugeja's inquiry on the ownership of the secret Panamanian company Egrant were published in July. The Prime Minister has said that he wants the entire inquiry to be published despite the fact that the Attorney General was against such a move.

Judge Robert Mangion heard Delia’s counsel, lawyer Vince Galea, say he had complied with the demand for a list of witnesses he was asked to provide. “We’re in a situation why we need to tell what the witness is going to testify about. Instead of just writing ‘about facts which he is privy to’, we listed witness by witness which questions we planned on asking.”

But the AG is opposing the request for witnesses to testify.

“The relevance of a question or witness is decided by the court at the time it is asked 
The point is that the court is being asked to decide on the relevance of witnesses without even having seen the acts of the inquiry.”

“The AG in this case is the defendant and has every right to ask questions. He can say that when asking this question he was wearing the hat of the FIAU chairman, of the AG, of the chief lawyer, but witnesses must testify.”

In the PlusOne incident case the AG had presented the full inquiry, yet in the Egrant case only part of the conclusions, Galea argued. “If the AG testified in the Egrant inquiry as chairman of FIAU… we don’t know. Doesn’t the applicant have the right to know in what capacity? So the leader of the Labour Party has the information on who testified, what they said and all the rest and the Leader of the Opposition, whose duty is to inform the public on matters of political public interest, has no such information.”

Galea reminded that politicians were meant to serve the public. “If the inquiry says they are to be investigated further or criminal charges, the PM isn’t allowing the leader of the Opposition to know, there is nothing to stop there not being any steps taken against them.”

Delia’s role as watchdog was being stifled by this, said the lawyer. “He has a right to know. He gave a copy of proces verbal to journalists, why not to someone who has a direct interest in the case?”

“Society is the victim,” Galea said, “if the leader of the Opposition can’t hold the executive accountable….

“The AG has created a political imbalance. So the AG gave a full copy to the PM and to the rest he gave the conclusions. So the PL functionaries have information which can be used politically, and the AG says they are irrelevant. If the AG breaches my rights have I no redress? Because his discretion is not subject to court scrutiny?”

Lawyer Victoria Buttigieg from the office of the AG said it is clear that all the witnesses are irrelevant because the issue is the use of discretion. She accused the Leader of the Opposition of wanting the AG to do away with secrecy of the inquiry.

Galea hit back in his counter reply. The AG is not yet under oath, he said. “So are we to simply take this statement as ok?”

“The process is secret. OK. But just not for the PM, AG, the Commissioner of police and others? We insist that the court, even if it keeps it to itself, must have a copy. We are in court not the pulpit,” he said.

Judge Mangion will rule on the issue on 19 September.

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