Court rescinds decree allowing Joseph and Michelle Muscat to participate in Ferris perjury case

The court made it clear that the revocation of the decree was not an outright refusal of the Muscats’ request to be introduced as a party, but that the court was not in a position to decree on the request at this stage of the proceedings.

A court has rescinded a decree allowing former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his spouse Michelle Muscat to participate in a perjury case against former FIAU manager Jonathan Ferris “at this stage.”

The case had originally been slated to be heard by Magistrate Joe Mifsud, who however, subsequently recused himself on November 11 due to a possible conflict of interest - moments after granting the Muscats the right to participate in the proceedings.

The reason given for the recusal was the fact that Mifsud is also hearing a separate case in which whistleblower Maria Efimova is charged with making false accusations about several police officers, including Ferris.

On 23 November 2020, the case was assigned to magistrate Marse-Ann Farrugia.

Ferris’ counsel, lawyers Kris Busietta and Jason Azzopardi, had requested magistrate Farrugia rescind the decree contrario imperio, arguing that an abstaining Magistrate could not take a decision impacting the rest of the proceedings, and that the couple had no standing in the case at hand.

“With all due respect to the magistrate concerned, in the opinion of this court as presided, this procedure goes contrary to that prescribed in section 368 of the Criminal Code. Once the magistrate concerned felt that there were reasons for him to abstain from hearing the case, he could not then move on to other acts in the case and therefore neither could he uphold the Muscats’ request.”

As a result, the Muscats do not currently have legal standing in the perjury case against Ferris. That said, the court made it clear that the revocation of the decree was not an outright refusal of the Muscats’ request to be introduced as a party, but simply that the court was not in a position to decree on it at this stage of the proceedings.

The perjury case was filed against Ferris after he had claimed to have identified a $600,000 transaction from Leyla Aliyeva, daughter of Azerbaijani president Ilham Alijev, to the New York-based fashion company Buttardi, a company owned by Michelle Buttigieg, a close friend of Michelle Muscat. Ferris had claimed the payment was disguised as a loan.

In a sitting yesterday, prosecuting officers Wayne Rodney Borg and George Frendo, from the Economic Crimes Unit of the police, told the court that they had found no evidence of the transaction in the FIAU working files and had therefore proceeded to charge Ferris with perjury. Inspectors Borg and Frendo had inherited the case from Superintendent Yvonne Farrugia and former police inspector Matthew Vella. Both Farrugia and Vella will testify at a later stage.

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