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.
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”.