Professional secrecy stops Attorney General from answering all questions

Government objects to Attorney General testifying before Privileges Committee in Dalli case

Attorney General Peter Grech (left) and John Dalli
Attorney General Peter Grech (left) and John Dalli

Attorney General Peter Grech said he was unable to reply to questions on his role in the investigations involving former EU Commissioner John Dalli, unless the government releases him from professional secrecy obligations.

“I’ll ask for a ruling if need be… but I need to be released professional secrecy,” Grech told Speaker Anglu Farrugia.

On his part, deputy prime minister Louis Grech said that having the Attorney General testify would set a precedent and hinder future cases in which he may be required to give advice to the government, since he could then expect to be summoned by parliament.

Nationalist MP Chris Said demanded that the government lift professional secrecy conditions if it had nothing to hide.

The Privileges Committee is considering a case instituted by the Prime Minister against the Leader of the Opposition, who claimed in parliament that Joseph Muscat had intervened in police investigations to stop the arraignment of John Dalli, on charges of bribery.

Muscat has denied the allegations and demanded Busuttil apologise. He then filed a breach of privilege complaint.

Minister Edward Zammit Lewis defended the Attorney General’s refusal to testify, citing his Peter Grech’s dual role as prosecutor and government advisor. “It’s a single institution, not some Janus-like role,” Zammit Lewis said quoting the statute books. “His role is delineated by the law and a Speaker’s ruling.”

Grech was asked to leave the committee room, so that the Speaker could ask the Opposition what it was planning to ask in a bid to establish whether the Attorney General had to be released from professional secrecy obligations.

“I will ask him on the OLAF investigations and how these were treated by him,” Chris Said said. “OLAF was certainly not his client,” the MP said.

The EU’s anti-fraud agency OLAF investigated allegations of bribery made against John Dalli, and forwarded its report to the office of the Attorney General for investigation back in October 2012.

Dr Said then asked the Attorney General whether Olaf, the EU anti-fraud office, sought information from his office before publishing its report about John Dalli.

Grech said information was sought until two officials turned up on 19 October 2012 and handed him the OLAF report. He read the report and on 22 October sent it to the Commissioner of Police for investigation. A ruling was requested on whether he should show the committee his letter to the Police Commissioner.

Grech confirmed that the OPM’s Internal Audit and Investigations Department had been involved in the OLAF investigations.

Said said he wanted to summon the former police commissioners about this case because the media had reported that the Attorney General had given conflicting advice.

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