Updated | Court rejects Busuttil's and Casa's attempt to revive call for inquiry into Daphne Project revelations

A court has thrown out a request to revive a call for an inquiry into revelations made by a consortium of international journalists last year that published correspondence showing €1.3 million had been transferred to 17 Black

David Casa and Simon Busuttil outside court back in April 2018
David Casa and Simon Busuttil outside court back in April 2018

Updated at 3:10pm with government's press conference

An inquiring magistrate has turned down a fresh request by former PN leader Simon Busuttil and MEP David Casa asking for an inquiry into possible money laundering revealed by the Daphne Project consortium last year.

The ruling comes after an Appeals Court rejected an inquiry into the Panama Papers revelations earlier this month.

Busuttil and Casa filed their request in April last year, shortly after the Daphne Project – a consortium of journalists from around the world – published details showing that the Dubai-company 17 Black had received €1.3 million from a Seychelles company owned by an Azeri national and another company associated with the LNG tanker berthed at Delimara.

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale had ruled last year that there existed legal prerequisites for an inquiry but noted that the facts outlined in the application had already been presented before inquiring Magistrate Ian Farrugia shortly after the 2017 election when Busuttil requested an inquiry into the Panama Papers.

Depasquale said that the documents and information supplied by Casa and Busuttil should be transferred to that case.

Magistrate Ian Farrugia had ruled in 2017 that there was enough evidence for an inquiry into the Panama Papers but proceedings stopped because the decision was appealed by Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri, Adrian Hillman, Karl Cini, Malcolm Scerri, and Brian Tonna.

In a ruling earlier this month Judge Giovanni Grixti upheld the appeal and threw out the request for an investigation into the Panama Papers.

READ ALSO: Why a Maltese judge threw out Simon Busuttil’s complaint for a Panama Papers investigation

Following Judge Grixti's decision, Busuttil and Casa attempted to revive their original request for an investigation into the 17 Black revelations made by the Daphne Project in April last year. In their court application the pair argued that their request for a probe into the Daphne Project findings was now in “legal limbo”.

“We are now in a situation where this court's decree on the 21 May 2018 is in legal and judicial limbo, neither alive nor dead, and must be given autonomous legal/judicial existence, independent from Magistrate Ian Farrugia’s decree (which has now been revoked)," Busuttil and Casa argued.

They stressed that the court had previously said that there “appeared to exist” the “prerequisites required at law” for an investigation.

However, in his decree on Tuesday, Magistrate Depasquale said that “contrary to what the [Busuttil and Casa] stated in their application”, there is no legal and judicial limbo and that there was no need for his previous decree to be “given autonomous legal/judicial existence”.

The courts decision, he said, was final given that it had not been appealed at the time.

Government reaction

In a reaction, the government emphasised the fact that the court had said there was no legal limbo and the decision was final.

It said that Busuttil and Casa had again requested an investigation “despite the fact that the court had made it clear, through other decisions, that the allegations made were conjecture and that there was no basis for an inquiry”.

The government added that the court had once again denied the requests made by Busuttil and Casa while stressing that the latest decision came weeks after a similar decision by the Criminal Courts.

Reacting on Twitter, Mizzi said the court had seen through "more speculations and conjectures".

Casa and Busuttil reacted to the decree with identical twets in which they said that the fact that an investigation into the Panama Papers was "proving impossible" only reinforced concerns on the rule of law in Malta.

"We must work harder than ever before, until our institutions once again protect honest citizens - not corrupt politicians," he said.

Government press conference

Addressing a press conference after the issuance of the judgment, the Labour Party MP Robert Abela said that Busuttil’s attempt to revive a call for an investigation into claims made by the Daphne Project regarding 17 Black and possible money laundering, showed “an enormous amount of disrespect for the rule of law and for our courts.”

“Busuttil and his ‘bella compania’ who are supporting him – such as Jason Azzopardi and David Casa – are on a crusade against Malta’s institutions,” Abela said, “My appeal is for them to stop this.”