In the latest in a series of events in the drama unfolding in the courtroom of Magistrate Nadine Lia, the magistrate on Thursday cited an anonymous “threatening letter” she received this week and summarily postponed, in a hearing that lasted under one minute, the controversial Pilatus Bank case until 27 October.
The drama involves the case in which civil society group Repubblika is accusing the police of dereliction of duty by having failed to charge the bank’s directors a year-and-a-half down the road since a magisterial inquiry concluded such a course of action should be taken.
“Everyone present in the courtroom was surprised by how the hearing was held,” Repubblika President Robert Aquilina said this morning.
“It only lasted a few seconds. Neither we nor our lawyer were allowed to say a word, even though we clearly indicated we had something to say.”
He said Repubblika is now even more determined to ensure it will, at the end of the day, “receive a proper hearing before a truly impartial court.
“Above all, we are determined to see that the Police Commissioner is not allowed to ignore the written orders given to him by the magistrate who conducted the Pilatus Bank inquiry.”
Repubblika said earlier this week that it would be taking the case to the constitutional court after Magistrate Lia refused requests to recuse herself from the case and to not allow testimony before her from her father-in-law, top Labour lawyer Pawlu Lia.
Repubblika argues the magistrate cannot be impartial since her father-in-law is the lawyer of former prime minister Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff Keith Schembri. Repubblika contends that since Muscat and Schembri are “alleged beneficiaries of its [Pilatus’] criminal activities” it is in their “manifest interest that the directors of Pilatus Bank are never brought to justice”.
Repubblika’s lawyer Jason Azzopardi filed a note with the Court Registry after Thursday’s short-lived hearing explaining how the magistrate had referred to the anonymous letter, abruptly adjourned the case for almost a month and a half, refused to entertain requests for lawyers’ statements, suspended her hearings for five minutes and left the courtroom.
On Tuesday Magistrate Lia received an anonymous letter advising her that she should have recused herself from the Pilatus case and threatening her career and her life. A magisterial inquiry has been opened into the incident.
In its note to the courts, Repubblika unreservedly condemned the threatening anonymous letter the magistrate reported receiving, but took no small amount of exception to insinuations that the group had anything, “even remotely” to do with the letter.