Government inquiry into bribery acquittal of Yorgen Fenech lawyers

PN says that government is covering up for the Attorney General's shortcomings

Lawyers Charles Mercieca and Gianluca Caruana Curran
Lawyers Charles Mercieca and Gianluca Caruana Curran

Justice Minister Jonathan Attard has launched an independent inquiry into the attempted bribery acquittal of Yorgen Fenech’s lawyers, Charles Mercieca and Gianluca Caruana Curran.

Reports say that Attard appointed former chief justice Joseph Azzopardi to lead the inquiry.

Charles Mercieca and Gianluca Caruana Curran had been charged by the police with attempting to bribe Times of Malta journalist Ivan Martin by handing him hundreds of euros at the end of a meeting at their Valletta office.

Their client Yorgen Fenech, stands accused of his complicity in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

They were cleared after the magistrate ruled the relevant offence was not properly indicated by the Attorney General. The Magistrate was forced to clear the lawyers, as they were charged with active bribery by the police but the Attorney General indicated a different provision of law denoting passive bribery.

The incident had happened in November 2020 when at the end of the 20-minute meeting in Valletta, Caruana Curran handed over a number of folded €500 notes to the Times of Malta journalist.

The lawyer had admitted that “remuneration was offered” and that he only offered the money because he had never dealt with a journalist before. Martin refused to money and went public with the story.

The Institute of Maltese Journalists had called for Victoria Buttigieg to shoulder responsibility for her 'mistake', whilst Repubblika had called for her resignation.

Government covering up for Buttigieg's shortcomings - PN

In a statement on Thursday PN said that government is doing its utmost to cover up for the Attorney General’s shortcomings.

Its Justice spokesperson Karol Aquilina said that the judgment made it clear that the lawyers were only acquitted after a serious failure of the Attorney General.

He said that instead of acknowledging her shortcomings, the AG appealed against the judgment and insisted she was not in the wrong. Aquilina said Attard chose to ignore the Court's judgment and wants the Court's judgment to be replaced by a person of his choice, in an inquiry that is not public and only available to himself.

“The inquiry appointed by the Minister for Justice will therefore serve no purpose other than that of the Attorney General retaining her position and bearing no responsibility," Aquilina said.

He referred to the case of self-confessed bank robber Daren Debono it-Topo, who was given a 10-year prison sentence in exchange for his testimony as part of a plea deal with the Attorney General’s Office. He subsequently refused to testify anyway.

“In this serious case, the Justice Minister has not taken any action so far and continues to defend the irresponsible behaviour of the Attorney General,” Aquilina said.

He added that the conduct of the Advocate General constitutes an abuse of her constitutional independence and that her "serious shortcomings" continue to undermine the institution of the Advocate General.

“The Opposition, therefore, expects the Attorney General to assume her responsibility and step aside from her post.”