Appeal filed against magistrate’s refusal to recuse herself from Pilatus Bank case

An appeal was filed this morning by NGO Repubblika claiming its right to a fair hearing has been violated because of Magistrate Nadine Lia’s steadfast refusal to recuse herself from its case challenging the police commissioner and attorney general over their failure to arraign Pilatus Bank’s former top officials.

Civil society action group Repubblika President Robert Aquilina has pledged to take “all steps necessary” to ensure it is not Magistrate Nadine Lia who hears its case.

Such steps, he said in a press conference convened outside the law courts after filing the appeal this morning, could very well include taking the matter before the European Court of Human Rights.

The appeal comes after a judge earlier this month turned down Repubblika’s request to have Magistrate Lia removed from the case after she refused to recuse herself.

The NGO contends, among a raft of other reasons, that Lia is unsuitable to hear the court challenge since is the daughter-in-law of Pawlu Lia – a Labour Party lawyer and also the lawyer of the former prime minister Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff Keith Schembri.

Repubblika argues the pair of disgraced former politicians have a direct interest in seeing the Pilatus officials not being arraigned and in the case being dropped.

The magistrate’s father-in-law Pawlu Lia is the government’s representative on the Commission for the Administration of Justice, which is responsible for taking disciplinary action against members of the judiciary. He was Muscat’s personal lawyer and has served as the Labour Party’s chief legal advisor.

He had also been the lawyer tasked with setting up the Egrant magisterial inquiry’s terms of reference and served as a lawyer for Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, who he defended in libel suits dealing with corruption, money laundering and their illicit financial structures in Panama and New Zealand.

This, coupled with the magistrate’s behaviour so far in the case, led Repubblika to request her to recuse herself, as she was seen as being too close for comfort to the proceedings.

Speaking on Tuesday morning, Aquilina recalled how Pilatus Bank had been set up “with the precise purpose of using Malta as a centre for laundering dirty money for people including the family of the President of Azerbaijan and for key people in the government of Joseph Muscat.

“It was allowed to operate abusively and unhindered, and we are saying this with evidence in hand.”

After Magistrate Lia refused to recuse herself, Repubblika opened a constitutional case seeking her removal and an interim measure from the courts ordered her to desist from the case for the time being.

But Madam Justice Audrey Demicoli on 20 January dismissed the case, effectively leaving Lia on as the presiding magistrate – ruling, on a technicality, that the case could lead to criminal proceedings against third parties but not against Repubblika itself. As such, it did not have ‘victim status’ in the case because it was filed in the interest of the public and not private or personal interests.


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1 month ago

Hu imbarazzanti ghall-Qorti, fil-fehma tieghi, meta Magistrat jew Imhallef – ikun min ikun – jiżvija ghalkollox minn hemel ta’ sentenzi tal-Qorti Ewropea tad-Drittijiet tal-Bniedem. Hu imbarazzanti ferm izjed meta wiehed jaf li din il-kawza tittratta sitwazzjoni minnha nnifisha imbarazzanti ghall-Qorti Maltija. Il-Qorti ghandha c-cans tirrepara s-sitwazzjoni bl-appell u jAlla taghmel dan b’mod spedit qabel jispicca kulhadd barra bid-daqq tal-preskrizzjoni.

Godfrey Leone Ganado
Godfrey Leone Ganado
1 month ago

Judge Demicoli – in my opinion it is logically stupid of you to differentiate between public and not private and personal interests, as if private and personal interests are not a granular part of public interests. Please don’t quote the ass aspects of the law.
After all, you know that Nadine Lia is absolutely not independent just as much as Pawlu Lia her relative by marriage can ever be seen as independent, exerberated by the professional relationship with his undisputed clients Joseph Muscat and Keith Schembri who authorised the setting up of Pilatus bank and befriended the owner/managing director, throwing their expected independence out of the windows for personal unhindered operations on their companies and/or personal dealings through the referred to laundromat pilatus bank.
I ask: how can one in his senses consider oneself independent and fit and proper unless to be subservient for ulterior motives of stamping jail-free cards.

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