Simon Busuttil is trying to delay the Egrant Inquiry – Manuel Mallia

The competitiveness minister economy pointed out that the inquiring magistrate had already issued a decree saying allegations about Keith Schembri could not be heard by the inquiry

Manuel Mallia
Manuel Mallia

Competitiveness minister, and criminal lawyer Manuel Mallia has said that Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil was trying to delay the Egrant inquiry by presenting inquiring magistrate Aaron Bugeja with more evidence pertaining to the activities of OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.

Busuttil this morning filed a court application, making himself available to testify once again before Magistrate Aaron Bugeja over revelations from documents he claims show payments between Schembri and former Allied Group managing director Adrian Hillman.

He has claimed that the payments, which amount to €650,000, took place between 2011 and 2015 and are a “textbook case of money laundering”.

“We must remember that the inquiry being presided over by magistrate Aaron Bugeja, is about whether the Prime Minister, his wife or any family member is in any way related to the company Egrant,” said Mallia.

He was addressing a press conference at the Labour Party headquarters where he said that Simon Busuttil had already presented a similar application, which the magistrate stated should be investigated in another inquiry.

“In his decree, Aaron Bugeja had said, in the clearest of terms, that the allegations could not be heard in the investigation because it was not related to inquiry,” he said, adding that the Bugeja had said in his decree that he was obliged to ask for there to be a second inquiry since by not doing so, he would have been in breach of the law.

Moreover, Mallia stressed that inquiries are carried out by the duty magistrate on call on a particular day, and cannot just be carried out by any magistrate.

As a criminal lawyer, he said, he could see no other reason, other than to prolong the inquiry, for Busuttil going to the same magistrate, with similar claims to the ones that had already been dismissed by the magistrate.

He stressed that like false claims made about candidates before an election, those making the claims know that there is no way a libel case would be heard before the election, and therefore that the truth would not emerge in time.

Furthermore, a second point which was worth mentioning said Mallia, was the fact that Busuttil had said that he does not trust the police.

“This is legal heresy for people who know the law,” he said. “The inquiring magistrate is not like any other magistrate but is an investigative one with wide ranging powers, including the power to order the police to arrest someone or investigate a matter.“

He insisted that Busuttil’s move was intended to attack Malta’s institutions and to instil doubt.

“I must also reiterate that the prime minister has said that if the inquiry links him and his family to the company he will not remain in his role,” said Mallia.

He insisted that a final verdict must ultimately be based on evidence and not conjecture, insisting that Busuttil was simply making accusations to “cast doubt on the eve of an election, to influence the way people vote”.