Judges silent on Film Commission tour despite Advocates’ Chamber complaint

Aqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti

The Association of Judges and Magistrates of Malta has declined to comment on questions related to a tour of the Gladiator 2 film set organised by the Malta Film Commission and the Judicial Studies Committee for judiciary members.

The ‘judiciary picnic’, which took place on 24 March, invited all judiciary members, including judges and magistrates, to a tour of the film sets and included lunch and a quiz which tested their knowledge of Malta’s film history.

Questions sent to the association’s president, Judge Francesco Depasquale, asking about the event’s appropriateness and whether it could compromise the judiciary’s impartiality in related court cases remained unanswered despite The Shift’s emails being opened dozens of times.

Answering separate questions from The Shift, a spokesperson for the Chamber of Advocates confirmed that the chamber “had communicated its perspective to the Chief Justice” Mark Chetcuti, but said the communications are confidential.

The Judicial Studies Committee organised the event, a judicial body directed by Chief Justice Chetcuti tasked with training judiciary members. Judge Joanne Vella Cuschieri is the vice president of the Committee.

According to the judiciary website, the Committee “is composed of four members, two appointed by the Chief Justice and two members appointed by the Justice Minister [Jonathan Attard], and acts under the general direction of the Chief Justice.

The judiciary code of ethics prohibits members from engaging in activities that can conflict with their independence, impartiality, or events organised by groups with political leanings. The code of ethics also prohibits them from accepting gifts which might influence their judicial duties.

The Malta Film Commission and its commissioner Johann Grech have been widely criticised for their unabated spending from the public purse, often completely lacking any transparency.

Earlier this month, The Shift reported how Film Commissioner Johann Grech had filed a civil court case to prevent information on the expenditure of public funds on the 2022 Malta Film Festival, requested by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation through a freedom of information request, from being published.

Grech has also rejected The Shift’s FOI requests asking for cost breakdowns of another lavish event by the Film Commission, the Mediterrane Film Festival, held last June at a cost of at least €1 million, according to industry insiders.

The Film Commissioner has recently also come under fire for the Malta Film Commission’s spending on a 40% rebate scheme offered to film productions shooting in Malta. A report by the Times of Malta showed how €47 million was spent on Gladiator 2 alone.

The scheme has been widely criticised for sidelining local crews, with previous Freedom of Information requests from The Shift asking for cost breakdowns of the estimated expenditure similarly rejected by the Film Commission.

Studies ‘proving’ the rebate scheme’s effectiveness remain unpublished, with discrepancies in the separate studies’ findings chalked up to “interpretation” by the economist behind them. Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo has since claimed that a redacted version of the latest study will be published in the coming days.


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4 months ago

That €47million hasn’t been spent yet. It has been committed. In fact the total cost may be higher as there is a leeway of some 10%. And so could be as much as €52/3 million. It totally depends on the actual eligible expenditure, which will only be established once the production completes filming.

What is wrong with the cash rebate is not that it exists or indeed that it is 40%, but what is being permitted in terms of eligible expenditure.

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