Magistrate Doreen Clarke has ordered an inquiry into the Panama Papers scandal, following two court applications filed by NGO Repubblika and Opposition MP Simon Busuttil.
The Magistrate accepted the arguments put forward by the two parties and ruled that Charmaine Galea, the Magistrate investigating 17 Black, must widen the scope to include all related allegations of corruption.
The scope of the inquiry will include a full investigation into the Panama Papers revelations as well as other evidence that has come into the public domain since.
“Evidence of corruption will be collected and preserved”, Repubblika said in a statement, adding that “one day justice will be done”.
An inquiry into Panama Papers scandal has been ordered by Mag. Clarke after requests by #RepubblikaMT & separately by @SimonBusuttil , overruling objections by @KonradMizzi. Evidence of #corruption will be collected and preserved. One Day justice will be done. We’ll see to it.
— repubblika ?? (@repubblikaMT) April 29, 2019
Last March, the NGO filed an application to the court, including a list of legal provisions that they said were being breached by Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri.
Opposition MP Simon Busuttil, also filed a request for an inquiry. In his application calling for the magisterial inquiry, he argued that the ‘institutional paralysis’ over the Panama Papers scandal breached EU laws. He reacted today saying “this may be “one small step for justice”, it is a “giant leap” for Malta.
BREAKING: Magistrate Doreen Clarke has just accepted our request to order an inquiry into the #PanamaPapers corruption involving @KonradMizzi and @keithaschembri. This is one small step for #justice but one GIANT LEAP for #Malta.
— Simon Busuttil (@SimonBusuttil) April 29, 2019
The ruling of the Magistrate today found that the facts presented could indicate a crime took place and ordered the evidence to be preserved.
“An inquiry is conducted to preserve the material clues (the evidence) of an alleged crime and for this to happen with all the precautions required by the law ensuring evidence is admissible in any possible criminal proceedings,” the court said.
Mizzi had attempted to stop such an inquiry from being launched, filing a constitutional case arguing it would breach his human rights. Busuttil had countered that the move was an attempt by a government official to block an investigation and prevent evidence from being scrutinised. “No one is prejudiced by the gathering of evidence,” he said.
After the Panama Papers revelations, an email was leaked that found that Mizzi and Schembri planned to receive a total of $2 million in transfers, via a secretive offshore structure.
One of the companies that was listed as providing these funds, 17 Black, was found to be owned by Yorgen Fenech, the CEO of Tumas Group, a part of the Electrogas consortium involved in the power station project negotiated by Mizzi.
We have today, as Repubblika, filed a Court application requesting an inquiry into crimes we are alleging were committed by Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi and those who bribed them and those who helped them to be bribed.In our application, we list a series of legal provisions we are alleging have been breached by Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi in order to hide or to try to hide proceeds from crime and corruption.All the information on which we base our allegation is in the public domain. It starts from Daphne Caruana Galizia’s revelations from three years ago and is further substantiated by evidence that has since become known: the Panama Papers revelations; the FIAU reports; and revelations as a result of journalistic investigations by The Daphne Project.There is much more than prima facie evidence that therefore makes it necessary for the prime minister to stop giving political asylum to these persons and for them to face the consequences of justice.Earlier today MP Simon Busuttil filed a similar application continuing to insist for action according to law. He first made that call when he was Leader of the Opposition.When he files these sorts of applications in Court, Simon Busuttil is wearing the mantle that belongs to all of us: the role of a citizen that shares everybody’s interest that the law in Malta is applied equally with everyone.As a civil society organisation that is committed to promoting good governance, the protection of the rule of law and the fight against corruption, we feel it is our mission as Repubblika to insist institutions do their job.We are here because in this case, the police have failed, the Attorney General has failed, the FIAU has failed and in some decisions that have been made, the judiciary has also failed. Every day that passes the Prime Minister also fails because when he harbours crooks, he makes himself one. Those who harbour crooks are just as crooked. This is a flagrant breach of our values and of European democratic values that uphold the rule of law.We expect strong objections by these crooks claiming we have no right to complain about them. They will say we have no legal standing because they have not robbed us of anything. Anyone who pays an electricity bill in Malta is paying a supplier who was contracted by the government because the responsible officials who contracted them have been bribed. Anyone paying an electricity bill in Malta is being robbed by these crooks and has every right to insist institutions take action to protect them.We are insisting on the full application of Maltese law. Maltese law includes European anti-money-laundering directives which among other things oblige the State to provide a remedy when these directives are breached. If our application of today is not accepted, the Maltese State will be denying us the last possible remedy, thereby breaching European law applicable in Malta.Although you would expect that on the back of such manifest evidence it should not be so hard for a decision to open an inquiry to be taken, we are under no illusion that the road ahead of us is easy.You will, therefore, understand that even if we are not heard today, our campaign will still go on.We are publishing here a copy of our application.Finally, on Women’s Day, we salute Daphne Caruana Galizia who was killed seventeen months ago fighting for the rule of law and against corruption and illegality. Our duty is to ensure that her fight does not die with her.
Posted by Repubblika on Friday, March 8, 2019
The NGO noted the government’s statement in which it framed the court’s decision as a victory for Mizzi and Schembri, and a refusal of Busuttil’s request for “a new inquiry”.
This was slammed as an attempt to mislead people, because the court’s decision to broaden the scope of another ongoing inquiry to include the series of facts presented in these applications will still result in the preservation of evidence of possible crimes committed by Mizzi and Schembri.
The government ignored the NGO’s application, focusing only on attacking Busuttil, leading Repubblika to state, “we don’t expect better from a government that disrespects civil society”.