Karl Cini breached privilege after invoking right to silence in PAC hearing

Karl Cini, former partner of Nexia BT, has been found guilty of breaching privilege for invoking his right to silence in a blanket manner during a hearing in front of parliament's public accounts committee

Speaker of the House Anġlu Farrugia. Inset: Karl Cini.
Speaker of the House Anġlu Farrugia. Inset: Karl Cini.

Karl Cini, the former partner of now-shuttered Nexia BT, has been found guilty of breach of privilege after invoking his right to silence on all questions put to him in front of parliament’s public accounts committee (PAC).

Cini is being given a last chance to comply with the Speaker’s rulings on the right to silence and right not to incriminate oneself when testifying in front of the PAC.

Speaker of the House Anġlu Farrugia insisted that Cini can invoke the right to silence on questions relating to matters subject to ongoing judicial consideration, but must not do so in a blanket manner.

In addition, the witness must provide documentation to prove that the matter is subject to ongoing judicial consideration.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Cini invoked his right to silence for a second time in front of the PAC. His lawyer, Stephen Tonna Lowell, insisted that he is facing criminal charges related to money laundering, and proof is still being exhibited in court.

In addition, the charges span a long period between 2005 and 2019, which includes the time in which Nexia BT was part of the tendering process for the Electrogas project.

The PAC is currently examining the Auditor General’s report on tenders awarded to Electrogas Ltd to build and operate a power station and LNG terminal.

Nexia BT was involved in the adjudication of bids for the public contract.

Tonna Lowell added that Cini’s money laundering charges do not include a predicate offence, and he could not exclude that the proceedings could eventually include Nexia BT’s activity on the Electrogas tender.

The Speaker pointed out that, since Nexia BT is under criminal investigation, Cini can invoke his right to silence on any questions that concern Nexia BT or any other companies of his that are under criminal investigation.

“Since there are accusations of money laundering, the Speaker feels that the right to silence should be guaranteed,” he said.

However, when invoking the right to silence, proper documentation must be presented to prove that there are criminal investigations underway.

In reaction to the Speaker's ruling, Nationalist MEP David Casa said that Karl Cini needs to be held accountable for his action. "The participation of Nationalist MPs in the PAC remains vital to see that the truth comes out and full justice is done as soon as possible."