Repubblika calls for impeachment of Magistrate Nadine Lia, Attorney General

Civil society NGO Repubblika says court decisions on Monday ‘shook’ the Maltese judicial system

Repubblika President Robert Aquilina (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Repubblika President Robert Aquilina (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Civil society NGO Repubblika have called for the impeachment of Magistrate Nadine Lia and Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg, hours after two decisions which the NGO said “shook the Maltese courts.”

Earlier on Monday, a judge rejected separate applications filed by a police inspector from the Financial Crimes Investigation Department (FCID) and the Attorney General who had asked the court not to compel them to testify in a case over the police’s failure to prosecute senior officials at Pilatus Bank.

Repubblika, through its lawyer Jason Azzopardi, is alleging that AG Victoria Buttigieg had issued what is known as a nolle prosequi - an order not to prosecute- Pilatus Bank owner Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, its operations supervisor Luis Rivera, the bank’s director Ghambari Hamidreza and bank official Mehmet Tasli.

The judge noted that no order or judicial decision restraining him from continuing with this case had been exhibited and that in the absence of such, the court could not stop the case from continuing.

Rejecting both requests, the court confirmed its order that they both testify in tomorrow’s sitting.

Speaking to reporters outside the courts, Repubblika President Robert Aquilina said that the decision meant that the AG had been caught lying under oath.

“These facts show that the AG is abusing her constitutional role, and has been caught giving false testimony,” he said.

In a separate decision lauded by Repubblika this morning, a judge granted the State Advocate permission to file an appeal against a part-judgement which had ordered challenge proceedings filed by Repubblika against the Police Commissioner to be taken out of Magistrate Nadine Lia’s hands and reassigned to another magistrate.

However, Mr Justice Ian Spiteri Bailey refused the State Advocate's request to suspend the challenge proceedings until the appeal is decided, ordering instead that the case may continue while the appeal is underway.

The challenge proceedings request the court to compel the Police Commissioner and the Attorney General to file charges against Pilatus Bank officials who had been earmarked for prosecution by a magisterial inquiry.

Magistrate Nadine Lia presided over those challenge proceedings, but Repubblika asked that she recuse herself in view of her family ties to lawyer Pawlu Lia, who was Joseph Muscat's lawyer. The magistrate had refused to do so, precipitating the filing of the constitutional case.

The State Advocate had subsequently requested permission to appeal and suspend the challenge proceedings until the constitutional issue was decided. This request was denied.

The judge noted that, despite this, Lia had issued a decree informing his court that the challenge proceedings had been adjourned and denying that any of the parties had requested the suspension of proceedings or an interim measure.

The judge observed that had the interim measure truly been discussed, it would have been mentioned during the parties’ submissions and there would have been no need for the present case to be filed.

Speaking outside the courts on Monday, Aquilina accused magistrate Lia of attempting to misrepresent the judge’s decision. “She lied about us, and now she lied about a judge,” he said, describing her as “not fit for purpose.”

The Repubblika president said the NGO wants to “clean the country’s institutions”.

“We have submitted, and will continue to submit evidence which is continuing to convince upstanding judges and magistrates, as well as Maltese people of good faith,” he said.