In the response filed in court by three Ministers on the request for a magisterial inquiry on the controversial Vitals Global Healthcare deal involving three of Malta’s public hospitals, they refer to text in the Egrant inquiry findings that appears to not have been made public.
Only part of the findings of the magisterial inquiry by Aaron Bugeja (now Judge) on the owner of the third company revealed in the Panama Papers, and which Daphne Caruana Galizia reported as belonging to the Prime Minister’s wife, has so far been published. But in their response to a court application filed by Repubblika, the Ministers ended up quoting text that revealed access to parts of the report they should not have seen.
The paragraph quoted in the Ministers’ response to NGO Repubblika’s request for a magisterial inquiry on the Vitals deal reveals that the magistrate recommended an investigation by the Police Commissioner to determine who was behind the false signatures on the declarations of trust related to Egrant.
While the three Ministers are using the Egrant findings to mount a defence on a separate case involving them and Vitals, Opposition Leader Adrian Delia has been denied a copy of the full report based on the argument by the Attorney General that it could be used “for political purposes”.
False signatures do not imply they were manufactured by the journalist who revealed the scandal, in this case, assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, or any of her sources. False signatures were common currency in the process used to set up companies in Panama by Mossack Fonseca, as revealed in the Panama Papers.
The Ministers’ response goes beyond perpetuating the line that Caruana Galizia was wrong on Egrant, in a context where the public has no information on what Caruana Galizia told the magistrate as the findings remain under wraps, at least for mere mortals.
The Ministers’ response filed by Aron Mifsud Bonnici’s law firm, goes beyond that. By creating parallels between the evidence in the Egrant inquiry and the evidence published on Vitals, it attempts to dismiss the scandal on the basis of “hate”, “mediocrity” and “agendas”.
The response curtly dismisses the court action by people who are “cut off from reality”. It fails to take into account the adoption of the Council of Europe report last week, describing the Vitals deal as “sinister” and “underhand”.
The response also refers to the ongoing investigation by the Auditor General as proof that action has been taken by the competent authorities. It fails to mention that the Auditor’s General’s investigation is the result of a request by the Opposition.
The response dedicates a hefty chunk to the fact that the court filings relied “almost exclusively on articles published by The Shift News” which it suggests is a tool of the Opposition – much in the same way the government tried to dismiss the conclusions of the Council of Europe’s Special Rapporteur by saying he was “close to the Opposition”.
The Shift News has published excerpts of agreements and contracts signed as evidence to back its revelations on the Vitals scandal.
These are not documents created in our newsroom, as has been shown in other media reports the government took on board to attack the Opposition while knowing they had no value.
The evidence published by The Shift News can all be checked and verified – they are documents filed in court by relevant parties as well as official documents from company registries abroad.
Yet Mifsud Bonnici’s firm, which Mizzi engages for his personal litigations in court, including those connected to the Panama Papers saga, has direct links to the government. The three partners of Mifsud Bonnici Advocates have all been given various posts in public companies.
The Mifsud Bonnici firm, which includes Aron Mifsud Bonnici and his wife Katrina Borg Cardona, also received more than €200,000 worth of direct orders from departments and entities falling under Mizzi’s responsibilities, as even a quick search in the government gazette shows.
Editorial Note: The Shift News is a publication dedicated to investigative journalism, well-reasoned insight and critical opinions. In publishing our researched articles we rely on facts, documentation and sources obtained in accordance with journalistic best practices and ethics. We often obtain additional insight from industry experts and practitioners to give you, the reader, further insight based on facts and industry-specific information. In this role, we are – as any truly investigative journalists in any democracy are – called to analyse and criticise the government of the day’s decisions and actions. This is normal. We feel we must, in no uncertain terms, express our shock at the language used by Ministers Chris Cardona, Edward Scicluna and Konrad Mizzi in their reply to the request made by Repubblika for a magisterial inquest (inquiry in the ‘in genere’) in our regard. This matter shall be reported to and discussed with press freedom watchdogs.
We feel that it must also be made clear that articles by journalists are not designed to be used as court submissions or intended to provide “evidence” other than the content of such articles. The Shift News disassociates itself from third parties using articles or other work by The Shift News as evidence, least of all in court, of more than their content or attributing more than or meaning beyond that which they contain or impart. At a time when the media is under pressure, people must be aware that such actions (especially where the journalist cannot or is, in the interest of protecting sources, unable to intervene) risk placing the media in a worse situation than it is already.