Repubblika filed an application in the Constitutional Court arguing that their right to a fair hearing before an impartial court is being breached by Magistrate Nadine Lia, who has thus far refused to recuse herself from a case and for refusing to have her father-in-law Pawlu Lia, testify in her courtroom.
In their application, Repubblika lists the circumstances and the actions by Magistrate Lia and argues that she cannot guarantee impartiality nor appear impartial in a case where the interests of her father-in-law’s clients are susceptible to legal action.
The NGO is currently challenging the police commissioner before the courts over the force’s refusal to abide by an inquiring magistrate’s order, given about a year and a half ago, to proceed against the now defunct Pilatus bank and its directors.
The case is before Magistrate Lia who, the organisation says, is actively hindering further investigation due to her actions in this case.
When the case was assigned to Magistrate Lia, Repubblika argued that Lia was unfit to hear the case because of her ties to her father-in-law lawyer Pawlu Lia, who also serves as a lawyer to disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat.
Repubblika argues that Pawlu Lia was also Konrad Mizzi’s lawyer for many years and defended him in numerous libel suits where the allegation was corruption or money laundering, including through secret companies abroad. Pawlu Lia was also Keith Schembri’s lawyer.
What’s more, they also note that Chen Cheng, the Chinese negotiator with Enemalta and Konrad Mizzi, was found to be the mastermind behind a secret company in Panama and had an account at Pilatus Bank.
Other reasons include past instances where Nadine Lia, who was still a lawyer, participated in political activities by the Labour Party. In May 2017, she gave a speech where she encouraged people to vote for the Labour Party and Joseph Muscat, who was and still is her father-in-law’s client. Nadine Lia was one of the individuals roped in to defend Muscat against the Egrant allegations at the time.
Pawlu Lia was also the lawyer tasked with setting up the terms of reference for the discredited magisterial inquiry into Egrant, which assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had reported was owned by Michelle Muscat, the wife of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat.
The conclusions of the inquiry on Pilatus that Repubblika has revealed show the magistrate in that inquiry ordered fresh investigations into the transfer of amounts to Pilatus Bank that the Egrant inquiry dismissed.
During the press conference held this morning, Robert Aquilina stressed once again Repubblika’s concern that the current system in which members of the judiciary are asked to recuse themselves over a conflict of interest get to decide for themselves whether to accept the request.
This, the organisation said, is “in itself unfair and an outrage to the fundamental right to a proper hearing”.
Repubblika’s application was filed by lawyer Jason Azzopardi.