From left: Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and Yorgen Fenech
A magisterial inquiry into the mysterious Dubai company 17 Black was launched a few weeks ago, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici confirmed tonight.
Responding to a question in Parliament by Opposition leader Adrian Delia, Bonnici said that the police requested a magisterial inquiry a few weeks ago, before Reuters and The Times of Malta revealed that the company belongs to Tumas Group CEO Yorgen Fenech.
“Malta has a functioning rule of law and effective separation of powers, so I wasn’t informed that an inquiry had been launched,” Bonnici said. “However, after developments on Sunday I contacted the Attorney General, who confirmed that an inquiry was underway.”
The developments in question a Sunday Times of Malta report into how the police have been investigating 17 Black since March after receiving a Financial Analysis Intelligence Unit (FIAU) report and how they requested a magisterial inquiry so as to acquire more evidence.
The inquiry is being led by Charmaine Galea, who last December had recused herself from presiding over the case against the three men charged with murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia due to a perceived conflict of interest. This was due to Caruana Galizia having written a blogpost describing her appointment as magistrate as an example of cronyism, given that she used to be the legal partner of then Labour deputy leader (now judge) Toni Abela.
Delia tweeted that the government is “in panic”, while his predecessor Simon Busuttil questioned why Mizzi and Schembri have not yet resigned although the are officially under investigation.
Last year, Busuttil requested an extensive magisterial inquiry into the Panama Papers and 17 Black. While his request was accepted, it was appealed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, Kasco director Malcolm Scerri and former Allied Newspapers managing direction Adrian Hillman.
This appeal was subject to a lengthy legal delay after Busuttil called for judge Antonio Mizzi to recuse himself from the case due to a perceived conflict of interest arising from his marriage to Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi. The constitutional court ruled in favour of Busuttil but this decision was overturned following an appeal by the Attorney General. However, Mizzi then pulled out of the case due to his impending retirement from the bench.