Minister Carmelo Abela and Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi will not be making any attempt to reach an out-of-court agreement, in a libel case instituted by the minister against Azzopardi’s claims that he was involved in the botched 2010 HSBC heist.
The minister filed for defamation last month after Azzopardi uploaded a Facebook post in which he claimed that Abela had been promised €300,000 in exchange for providing the would-be robbers with security keys and insider information about the bank’s layout.
In his court application, as he has done publicly, the minister “categorically and absolutely” denied any involvement in the crime.
The first sitting in the case was scheduled to take place this morning. Azzopardi appeared in court, however, Abela’s lawyer Pawlu Lia informed the court that a deferral had been requested by Azzopardi’s lawyer, in order for him to have more time to file a reply.
Abela was not present in court for this morning’s sitting. A spokesperson for the minister got in touch with Lovin Malta following the sitting to clarify that the minister was in fact on his way to court but turned back when he was informed by his lawyer that the sitting was to be deferred.
The court asked both parties whether any attempt would be made at mediation to which Lia replied that there was no chance of mediation in this case.
The court gave Azzopardi’s lawyer one week to file his reply and set a date for the next sitting.
Since Azzopardi made his claims about Abela, it has been revealed that the police have started to investigate the minister. This follows press reports quoting testimony given by Abela behind closed doors back in 2010, in which he was asked about his access to security equipment which allowed the criminals to gain access into the bank’s high-security areas.
At the time, Abela was a senior insurance and statistics officer within the security department, and would have had access to security equipment as well as knowledge about the funds kept within the bank’s vaults.
When confronted about the testimony, Abela said he could not remember testifying in the inquiry into the crime.
Yesterday, the Times of Malta reported that Judge Giovanni Grixti – who led the inquiry into the attempted robbery – in an unorthodox move, informed Abela that the police had requested the transcript of Abela’s testimony as part of ongoing investigations.
In recent months, both the Degiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat, who are believed to have carried out the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, have requested presidential pardons in order to reveal information about a number of past crimes.
They have all said they are able to name a sitting minister who they know to have been involved in the attempted heist.
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