The Attorney General’s office has asked Repubblika to bring to a halt its judicial protest about the inaction that the organisation has said was taken by the state prosecutor on Pilatus Bank.
In a strongly-worded letter by the office on 25 July, but which the NGO said they were only informed about on Tuesday, the office formally called on the anti-corruption NGO to not proceed with taking further action against it.
“The exponent is formally calling upon you to bring to a halt further action against it,” the office wrote in the conclusions of the letter signed by assistant state advocate, lawyer Fiorella Fenech Vella.
In response, the NGO retorted that it would be going ahead with the procedure, which is to begin on 30 September.
The judicial protest in question was filed by the NGO on 5 July and argues that Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg failed to follow up on the orders of the magisterial inquiry into the now-defunct Pilatus Bank – a €7.5 million inquiry that called for more prosecutions.
In her reply representing the office, Fenech Vella “strongly rejected” Repubblika’s claims, saying that the NGO does not have a right to bring the action to court, and that the organisation could have written to the office itself to reconsider its decision – a “remedy that was not utilised”.
Repubblika’s reply states that not only is it in the organisation’s statute to do so, but its duty, seeing as it is also an organisation “run by taxpayers who funded the inquiry that “cost more than a new school”.
The office argued that Repubblika is “rushing to conclusions” with the consequences of “dirtying” the process and “throwing attacks on the Attorney General without full knowledge of the facts and the work that is being done.”
The office argued that its decision is “reasonable” and grounded in law and said that some difficulties in placing charges on individuals would not be known to the public in order to not to make details known to the person individual in question. Because of the lack of information, “mistaken deductions” can be drawn, the organisation said, adding that those who publish decisions by the office should be deemed the offender.
In its reply, written by former Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi, Repubblika it is “embarrassing that the Attorney General wants to continue assuring impunity for corrupt criminals involved in the running of Pilatus Bank.”
Calling the office’s argument “pathetic”, Azzopardi argued that the NGO acted according to the law and observed the applicable terms.
He also noted that in its argument, the office did not deny “one ounce” of what Repubblika revealed. Regarding international arrest warrants, Azzopardi reminded the Attorney General how, in October 2021, former Pilatus Bank officer Mehmet Tasli entered Malta’s courts to testify where the Attorney General was represented by two lawyers from her office.
“They cross-examined him and let him leave as if nothing happened when this former officer from Pilatus Bank was one of those whom the inquiring magistrate had ordered in March 2021 to be arrested and brought to court for money laundering.”
Pilatus Bank’s doors were permanently shut down by the European Central Bank in 2018. The magisterial inquiry into the bank’s operations has cost taxpayers more than €7.5 million and amounted to over 500,000 pages of information.
During a press conference announcing the judicial protest filed in July, Repubblika president Robert Aquilina had said that he was “personally, definitely, categorically informed” of “irrefutable evidence in the conclusions of the magisterial inquiry” regarding the operations of Pilatus Bank.