Former magistrate Carol Peralta reappears on freemasons’ list

Former magistrate retired in August 2015 and is now Grand Registrar of Grand Lodge of Malta

Former magistrate Carol Peralta
Former magistrate Carol Peralta

Former magistrate Carol Peralta, who retired from the bench in August 2015, has appeared once again in a list of Maltese freemasons summoned to a meeting in France, raising questions as to whether he had ever severed his ties with masonic lodges during his time as a magistrate.

In an email to members of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta, which groups 10 subordinate lodges, the ‘Most Worshipful Grand Master’ Benjamin Muscat – the owner of the Ta’ Marija restaurant in Mosta – includes Peralta among a group of freemasons travelling to Paris.

Peralta is listed as Grand Registrar – namely the Grand Lodge’s principal legal officer – and a role that is generally held by a qualified lawyer or judge.

The email’s sender, Grand Secretary Tony Cilia Pisani, sent out the message on 13 October.

But when contacted, Cilia Pisani claimed he was “no longer involved in it” – referring to the Grand Lodge of Malta, even though it was specifically put to him that his email was informing members of a meeting between the Maltese freemasons and the Grand Orient of France.

Cilia Pisani refused to confirm whether Peralta had been a freemason before his retirement. MaltaToday was unable to get in telephonic contact with the former magistrate.

In his email, Cilia Pisani informs members of an upcoming trip to Paris by Maltese freemasons.

“I am pleased to inform you that the MWGM Benjamin Muscat will be accompanied to Paris for the signing of the Masonic Treaty between the Grand Orient de France and the Grand Lodge of Malta with the following Brethren:

“The Right Worshipful deputy grand master Brother Mario Vella Gatt, the Right Worshipful grand registrar Brother Carol Peralta, Brother Frank Galea, Brother Olvin Galea, [and] Brother Jonathan Pace.”

MaltaToday understands that Mario Vella Gatt is the owner of the Bacchus restaurant in Mdina, while both Olvin Galea and Jonathan Pace are businessmen.

It is clear that if Carol Peralta held his role as a freemason during his tenure as magistrate, this would have been in breach of the judiciary’s Code of Ethics, which expressly bans judges and magistrates from being freemasons.

But it also confirms that since being outed as a freemason back in 1990, the magistrate has found it to hard to deny his involvement in freemasonry despite it being banned by the Code of Ethics for the judiciary.


Judges cannot be freemasons

In terms of the Code of Ethics for the judiciary, is it expressly stated that a member of the judiciary cannot be a freemason.

“Membership of masonic lodges and secret associations is incompatible with the holding of judicial office. Likewise membership of any association that requires a promise of allegiance from its members is incompatible with judicial office.”

The Code of Ethics furthermore prohibits judges and magistrates from a wide array of activities that can affect their credibility and trust.

They are barred from holding voluntary, temporary or honorary posts which the Commission for the Administration of Justice says could “compromise or prejudice their position or duties or functions” and they have to inform the Chief Justice of any such post they hold.

Any private activity they conduct cannot “tarnish their personal integrity and dignity”, and they cannot join associations whose nature “can be in conflict with their independence or impartiality” or support them financially or participate in their activities.

They also cannot associate with persons or associations that could discredit the judiciary, “and they shall avoid conduct that could give rise to public scandal.”


Never denied being a freemason

In a press conference convened after he controversially hosted a Christmas party inside his courtroom back in 2013, Peralta had refused to deny or confirm his continued involvement in freemasonry.

When asked then by MaltaToday whether he was still a freemason, Peralta had refused to answer, simply saying it was not illegal, and that ample European court judgements existed saying that there was no conflict between him being a freemason and a member of the judiciary.

Nationalist deputy leader for party affairs Beppe Fenech Adami later stated in parliament that the magistrate’s non-denial was serious. “It is unacceptable that any individual occupying a public role is a member of a secret society.”

In the 1990s, Peralta had already been confirmed as having been a senior freemason at the Leinster lodge No 387, which would convene at Villa Blye in Paola before being sworn in as magistrate in 1990.

Peralta’s name had appeared on a letter the masonic brothers sent three days later after his appointment as magistrate. The story was broken by Alternattiva – the defunct newspaper published by Alternattiva Demokratika – in 1990.

Two impeachment motions to remove Magistrate Peralta out of office in the past fell through. The first one was proposed by former Alternattiva Demokratika MP Wenzu Mintoff in 1990, asking for the removal from office of Peralta as well as another magistrate on grounds of misbehaviour. Peralta was then magistrate at the Gozo Court and was essential in granting ownership rights overnight to a dubious land title owner of the Sant’ Antnin Battery in Qala, who could then sell it to his fellow magistrate.

The impeachment motion however fell through, as there was still no legal procedure to investigate magistrates.

In December 1994, prime minister Eddie Fenech Adami presented another impeachment motion against Peralta. At that time the newly established Commission for the Administration of Justice had refused Fenech Adami’s motion, saying there were no grounds for the impeachment motion to be debated in parliament. In fact, the reasons behind the motion were never made public officially although they are known to revolve around an alleged abusive relationship with an Asian woman.

Peralta returned to service in the Maltese courts in 2012 after having served eight years in war crimes tribunals as part of the UN mission in Kosovo, having left Malta in 2003 with 283 pending magisterial inquiries.