Peter Grech resigns as Attorney General

Grech to continue in post until September 9

Attorney General Peter Grech has submitted his resignation, effective September 9.

Grech handed in his notice in a letter sent to the President of Malta this afternoon, according to a statement issued by the Office of the President. A copy his resignation letter was not included with the statement. He will have occupied the position for exactly 10 years.

In a reaction, Prime Minister Robert Abela thanked Grech for his service. Minister for Justice, Equality and Governance Edward Zammit Lewis will now be establishing an Appointment Commission which will issue a public call for applications in accordance with the laws of Malta.    

Grech began his legal career at the Office of the Attorney General in 1983, becoming Deputy Attorney General in 2005. He was appointed to the top post as a replacement for Silvio Camilleri in 2010, after Camilleri was sworn in as Chief Justice.

In recent years, Grech has faced numerous calls for his resignation or removal, in particular over his handling of corruption allegations, but these were always parried.

Just last month, Prime Minister Robert Abela had hinted that a new AG may be appointed in the ‘near or not so near future.’

Grech’s tenure has been dogged by frequent criticism that he treated political corruption with kid gloves.

In 2017 the PN had argued that Grech had reneged on his duty to prosecute former minister Konrad Mizzi and the former chief of staff to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri, among others, on suspicions of money laundering and kickbacks found in reports drawn up by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit.

Earlier this year, PN MP Jason Azzopardi had memorably lashed out at Grech, after the inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia heard former Head of the Economic Crimes Unit, Ian Abdilla, claim that Grech had asked police to go slow on corruption investigations.

“I have no words strong enough to denounce your spineless, amoral bootlicking of this government. You intentionally advised and warned police not to prosecute for corruption Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and Joseph Muscat in order to avoid unrest in the country. You contributed to Daphne’s murder.  Every day you continue in office is a filthy disgrace on your office,” Azzopardi had said at the time.

Grech had denied the accusation as an “outright lie and calumny.”

Reactions

In his reaction to the news of Grech's stepping down, Azzopardi raised questions as to the timing of the resignation, also asking why it would only be effective in 3 weeks time. Additionally, he demanded that the government be swift in publishing Grech's resignation letter, "in the interests of transparency."

"The least the people have a right to is to know why, after so many calls for his resignation falling on deaf ears over the past years, it was only today, of all days, that the Attorney General announced his resignation with no explanation and will still remain in office for the next three weeks."

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia echoed these sentiments, saying that Grech "should have resigned a long time ago." He had chosen to defend foreign companies against the best interests of the nation, said Delia, insisting that whoever is appointed as the new AG should enjoy trust across the board.

Civil society organisation Repubblika, which had long been requesting Grech's removal, said it believed it is in the public interest that the reasons for the resignation are published immediately and that Grech's decisions and the operations of the Office should be reviewed. "We augur that Dr Grech’s replacement will be a person of integrity who will uphold the law above all else, and will not bend to any political will or partisan interests," it said.

In a Facebook post, PN leadership contender Bernard Grech said a resignation was not enough to repair the damage to Malta's chances of a positive report by Moneyval.

"I hope that from today onwards, this office is allowed to carry out its duties in the most just and impartial manner. Only then can justice be done in so many cases which cast an ugly shadow on our country's name and which are still pending."

More in National