[WATCH] Bernard Grech unveils PN’s anti-corruption package of 12 legislative Bills

PN proposes raft of anti-corruption Bills reflecting Caruana Galizia public inquiry recommendations, Grech accuses Labour government of inaction

Bernard Grech
Bernard Grech

The Nationalist Party unveiled a package of 12 legislative Bills to fight corruption and mafia-style crimes that will include the creation of a special inquiring magistrate to focus solely on corruption by public officers.

Opposition leader Bernard Grech accused Prime Minister Robert Abela of inaction on the recommendations of the Caruana Galizia public inquiry’s findings and the FATF greylisting, and said the culture of impunity that allowed the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia still reigned under Labour.

“Instead of tightening the belt on small businesses, we want control of the political class – the PN has unanimously approved a package of 12 Bills to implement the public inquiry’s main findings, and address issues of good governance.”

The Bills include proposals limiting government’s duties and actions during an election campaign; a special inquiring magistrate to focus only on corruption investigations; the creation of a crime of procuring political influence, obstruction of justice, and omission of duty by public officers; unexplained wealth orders; creation of a crime for mafia association and organised crime; as well as a Bill to include a declaration in favour of journalism, to be enshrined in the Maltese Constitution.

“Today we made history by presenting 12 acts that I’m confident will help Malta get out of the FATF greylisting. It is not enough to present them but they should also be enacted as soon as possible. The time for empty talk is over – we want to address issues the country has in a serious manner,” Grech stated.

The Office of the Prime Minister said in a reaction that it had already consulted with academics and journalists, as well as international institutions, to set up a committee of experts as recommended by the the public inquiry.

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation welcomed news the draft laws presented by the Opposition, which it said will incorporate recommendations made by the Public Inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

"The proper implementation of the Inquiry’s findings and recommendations presents an opportunity for Malta to mature into a modern democracy and a positive example for the rest of Europe. If the process of reform is effective, we may at least have the satisfaction of knowing that Daphne’s death will strengthen our country’s democracy and save the lives of others," it said in a statement.

The Bills

The package of 12 draft laws are built on the recommendations by the public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and will be presented in the days to come as Parliament resumes its sittings tomorrow after the Christmas recess.

The Bills are:

An act that lists the duties of the government in terms of the common good. This list of duties will be enshrined in the Constitution, by making the government the guardian of rule of law, custodian of the nation’s heritage, and a promoter of social wellbeing;

An act that lists the duties of an interim government when the parliament is dissolved as at Act 76 of the Constitution, for which during this period no decision taken can bind an incoming Cabinet;

The creation of an office for a Special Inquiring Magistrate against corruption, with great powers to investigation corrupt acts as well as initiative investigations;

A law to outlaw the use of violence or threats, or the promise of money or rewards, to force others to give false testimony to a judicial or prosecutorial office, and to criminalise the obstruction of justice;

A law that penalises the dereliction of duty by a public official entrusted with upholding and enforcing the law;

An act that creates a new crime for organised crime with proviso on mafia-style association;

A law outlawing the illegal use by officials or public servants of non-official or authorised electronic resources;

An act for unexplained wealth orders: the Criminal Court, at the request of the Attorney General, will be able to issue an unexplained wealth order on any asset, where there is a suspicion that assets or wealth were funded by a major crime, carrying the penalty of a maximum nine-year sentence;

The creation of a new crime for abuse of office by a public official;

An act that provides better tools for the police in the investigation of major crimes. The law will call for a constitutional amendment to allow a maximum 72-hour arrest for suspects in. the crimes of terrorism, homicide, money laundering and drug trafficking, with the authorisation of the inquiring magistrate;

An act to amend the Constitution, enshrining the principle for the highest form of protection for free, independent and impartial journalism as one of the main pillars of a country built on rule of law;

An anti-SLAPP law that protects journalists from ‘strategic lawsuits against public participation’, employed by forum-shopping plaintiffs who seek to inflict maximum damages on journalists with expensive lawsuits.