Joseph Muscat testifies in constitutional case to release Egrant report to Opposition

Prime Minister testifies in court case filed by Opposition leader Adrian Delia to obtain copy of Egrant magisterial inquiry

Joseph Muscat
Joseph Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat testified on Friday morning in constitutional proceedings filed by Opposition leader Adrian Delia, who is challenging the Attorney General’s decision to deny him a full copy of the Egrant inquiry. 

The judge ordered the prime minister’s personal lawyer Pawlu Lia not to be present during the hearing of other witnesses, on objection of Opposition leader Adrian Delia’s lawyer. 

Lia could still be called in as a witness to be asked at what time he received the copy of the Egrant report. Delia’s lawyer is Vincent Galea. 

In 49 pages of conclusions published by the Attorney General’s office, the magistrate cast doubts on several aspects on the testimony of former Pilatus employee Maria Efimova and found that many of the allegations, first published by Daphne Caruana Galizia in April 2017, were not backed by proof. 

Muscat told the court he recieved a hard copy of the inquiry and said justice minister Owen Bonnici has a soft copy. But he also said he has not read the inquiry in full.

“The report was important because my entire career depended on the outcome of the case... I had said that if there were any indication of a connection of Egrant to me or my family, I would resign.”

Muscat said he had been alerted on the eve of his press conference on the Egrant inquiry conclusions by Bonnici that the magistrate’s inquiry report had reached the Attorney General, Peter Grech, and that he asked his lawyer Pawlu Lia for a copy.

Muscat also said he gave his copy of the inquiry to his spokesperson Kurt Farrugia. “I saw the conclusions and they left no doubt. I had to prepare a statement for the public, so I sought advice from my lawyer and the justice minister. I wanted to be sure that I would not prejudge any eventual issue by what I would state.”

“Ironically I’m the one being asked questions when my wife and I are the victims... I have not seen the inquiry in full. I'm still disappointed and angry about it. There are persons, private individuals sharing names with me and my wife who should not be mentioned in public. That's one of reasons the AG objected to its publication in entirety.”

Justice minister Owen Bonnici took the witness stand after the Prime Minister arguing that even though the Attorney General’s office fell under his ministerial responsibilities, it was independent, as dictated by the constitution.

This was questioned by Galea however, with the minister insisting that the AG had security of tenure, unlike a minister, and may only be removed by a two-thirds majority.

Bonnici stressed that even when acting as a consultant to the government, the AG was autonomous. Bonnici added that he had played no part in the inquiry.

He said he was called by the AG on 21 July and was informed that the inquiry had been received by his office and that the AG’s office would be issuing a statement.

Bonnici said he had gotten involved when it transpired that Muscat and the AG had differing views on the report’s publication.

Asked whether he had given anyone else a copy of the inquiry, Bonnici replied in the negative, adding however that he was aware that Kurt Farrugia had one.

Bonnici stressed that no members of the government or the Labour Party had asked for copies.

Although Joseph Muscat had said he wanted the full report to be published, the Attorney General has refused to publish the inquiry report. 

Opposition leader Adrian Delia insists he should have a copy of the inquiry report. 

In a reaction outside court, Delia said that Bonnici’s testimony contradicted that of the Attorney General. Decrying what he described as “institutional incest” he said that we now know that [designation] Kurt Farrugia has a copy of the report.

Owen Bonnici had contradicted the AG by saying that the report was given to him by Lia and by denying that he had given advice to the Prime Minister about the case – which was the justification given for allowing him a copy of the full report, Delia said.

The minister of Justice said he had asked for a softcopy after already having received the hardcopy from Lia, contradicting what the Attorney General had said, argued Delia.

“We found out today from what happened inside the courtroom that the Prime Minister’s lawyers are the lawyers of the Attorney General and that the lawyers of the Attorney General’s office are the lawyers of the Prime Minister.”

The case was adjourned till 26 November.

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