Koħħu lawyer: best for Robert Abela to recuse himself on pardon

Lawyer of murder suspect Vincent Muscat ‘il-Koħħu’ thinks Prime Minister should recuse himself from any Cabinet discussion on a presidential pardon for his client

Vince Muscat, il-Kohhu, (right) is one of three men accused of murdering journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia
Vince Muscat, il-Kohhu, (right) is one of three men accused of murdering journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

The lawyer of murder suspect Vincent Muscat ‘il-Koħħu’ thinks Prime Minister Robert Abela should recuse himself from any Cabinet discussion on a presidential pardon for his client, “for transparency’s sake”.

Mark Sant said Abela should recuse himself on discussion on a pardon for his client, after it was revealed that he was formerly a lawyer for the Agius brothers, who were referred to by their family nickname in court as the suppliers of the bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia.

“This was news to my client and his family,” Sant told MaltaToday. “I have no doubt that Robert Abela will do the right thing in this delicate matter.”

Muscat has requested a pardon in return for information on the Caruana Galizia assassination and other crimes.

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But Sant said Abela should not be cavalier about the decision. “I hope he is aware that his is not the only conflict of interest among the current Cabinet members,”, referring to his client’s recent court application in which he alleged that “prominent individuals” yet to be publicly named are involved in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder and other crimes.

Muscat has accused the police of unnecessarily delaying a report on his request – pending since April 2018 – for a presidential pardon to walk free, in exchange for information about the journalist’s murder and other crimes he says he has inside knowledge about.

Asked for more details about the names he is claiming to know about, Sant refused to mention any people. “In our judicial acts we did not mention prominent persons, including some involved in politics, capriciously,” Sant said, refusing to delve any further into his client’s suggestions.

The Times reported that Abela represented the Agius family in two cases revolving around financial disputes, first in 2012 and then in 2016, and is now looking into whether he should recuse himself from the decision on whether to pardon a suspect in return for naming them. “The fact that I personally, not my law firm, but I personally, represented the Agius brothers is not a secret,” Abela said.

A joint investigation by MaltaToday and The Times showed the Agius brothers, who police believe are at the head of an organised crime group, are part of the conspiracy that supplied the bomb used to assassinate Caruana Galizia in 2017.

Abela said this would not impair his judgement. “The fact that someone was my client in the past will certainly not work in their favour when it comes to important decisions I have to take. The oath I took back in January holds me back from doing that. Even more so, my conscience won’t allow it,” he said.

Vince Muscat has accused lead inspector Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra of playing for time in the interests of “prominent third parties”, some of whom are politicians involved in the crimes, and said the only reason for this “exaggerated delay” hidden interests to protect “prominent individuals” yet to be mentioned in connection with Caruana Galizia’s murder.

Muscat wants the entire Cabinet from 2017 to date, including former prime minister Joseph Muscat and former chief of staff Keith Schembri, to testify about his presidential pardon request.

Muscat declared that it was him who pointed the finger at middleman Melvin Theuma back in April 2018. Then a formal request for a pardon was made again when Theuma and Fenech were arrested by the police in connection with the murder in November 2019. Theuma was first arrested on a money laundering charge that he was aware of, because of a pending FIAU investigation that could have been prompted by Muscat’s statement in 2018.

Muscat held five sessions with the police between January and February, detailing his knowledge of various crimes. Muscat wants pending trial over his alleged involvement in the 2010 failed HSBC heist should be postponed until a decision is taken on his pardon.

Robert Abela did admit he was currently trying to establish whether there are grounds for him to recuse himself on the matter. “The two instances where I had appeared on the Agius brothers’ behalf have nothing at all to do with the allegations being made by [Vince Muscat],” Abela said.

Abela has not yet taken a final decision on whether a pardon should be considered and that he was awaiting advice from police commissioner Angelo Gafà and the attorney general, Victoria Buttigieg, who are examining Muscat’s request in detail.