Egrant inquiry given ‘clearance to all funds in April’

Justice Ministry denies Times of Malta front-page report in which newspaper claims Magistrate Aaron Bugeja awaits clearance to engage experts • Journalist summoned to magistrate’s courtroom

Magistrate Aaron Bugeja is investigating the Egrant allegations
Magistrate Aaron Bugeja is investigating the Egrant allegations

Magistrate Aaron Bugeja was given the necessary clearance to all funds needed to appoint any court expert, local or foreign, to assist him in the Egrant inquiry back on April 26, the Ministry for Justice said today.

The ministry was reporting to “a fabricated” news report by the Times of Malta, in which the newspaper claims that Bugeja was still awaiting the Justice Department’s approval before appointing foreign IT experts to assist him.

The magistrate has now summoned journalist Ivan Camilleri to his courtroom.

Bugeja has requested foreign expertise to help examine certain computer servers – including those elevated from the offices of Pilatus Bank and Nexia BT – in his inquiry to determine whether allegations that the Prime Minister’s wife, Michelle Muscat, owns a share in the Panamanian company were true or not.

But according to the Justice Ministry, the newspaper’s report is “an outright fabrication”.

“The reporter never asked the Ministry specifically about the Egrant inquiry and, for reasons only known to him, decided to invent a story by manipulating answers provided by the Ministry to generic questions,” the Justice Ministry said.

The newspaper reported that costs exceeding half a million euros would need the government’s green light for the court to proceed with the appointment.

The Ministry however stated that there were no issues of funding.

“In fact, the Ministry had, back on the 26th of April 2017—a full three months ago—given the necessary clearance to all funds needed for the Magistrate to appoint any court expert, local or foreign, to assist him in the Egrant inquiry,” it said.

The ministry said that, contrary to the report, the judiciary can avail themselves of court experts from an existing list issued by the Justice Department.

“The list is made up of experts who put forward their name after an open expression of interest. However, the judiciary are also free to appoint other court experts as they deem fit—and in fact, they are doing so. This ensures the independence and transparency of the judiciary,” it said.

The government added that Bugeja had the full administrative support to conclude the inquiry in the shortest time possible.

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