Ministers off the hook in Egrant extract testimony case

Konrad Mizzi, Edward Scicluna and Chris Cardona will not be testifying over how they could cite the as yet unpublished Egrant report after constitutional court decree

Economy Minister Chris Cardona, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi
Economy Minister Chris Cardona, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi

Ministers Edward Scicluna, Konrad Mizzi and Chris Cardona are off the hook as the constitutional court has decreed that they need not testify as to how they could quote from the confidential Egrant report.

The court has upheld the application filed by Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, Economy Minister Chris Cardona and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi in which they requested the overturning of a decree ordering them to be summoned to testify over their citing of details pertaining to the as yet unpublished Egrant inquiry which were not part of the extract published last year.

READ ALSO: Chief Justice says he 'cannot force' ministers to exhibit Egrant report

In a brief judgment handed down from chambers this afternoon, the Constitutional Court, presided by Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi, Mr Justice Giannino Caruana Demajo and Mr. Justice Noel Cuschieri observed that the request to avoid testifying was intended to safeguard the confidentiality of the acts of the inquiry and to protect their interests as potential defendants, being “suspected persons” in the inquiry.

On the subject of the inquiry’s confidentiality, the judges said that the same court had already provided for and upheld the request to present witnesses and documents relating to the inquiry. The ministers had no legitimate right to contest that decision as they are not parties to the case.

But the same could not be said for the second reason, said the court. “The applicants cannot be forced to answer questions when the answers could land them under criminal proceedings. Once the applicants are “suspected persons” they have the right not to answer to things tied to that case.”

READ MORE: Ministers will have to tell court how they quoted confidential Egrant report

The court said its task was to, insofar as possible, reconcile the conflicting legitimate interests of the plaintiff and that of the applicants. The interest of the plaintiff was to show that the ministers had in fact quoted from the Egrant inquiry in order to base his arguments on this fact, said the court. But to do so, neither did they require the ministers to testify, nor present their full replies – only the parts cited from the inquiry. That extract, alone and out of context of the replies of the applicants in the acts of the inquiry about the VGH hospital deal, cannot be used to prejudice their case, ruled the judges.

The court revoked its August 2019 decree which had ordered the ministers to testify and instead ordered them to present only that part of their reply from June 2019 in the acts of the Vitals inquiry where the extracts from the Egrant inquiry are cited.