Former Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil has hit out at a judge’s recent refusal to order a magisterial inquiry into the Panama Papers as “truly shocking”, warning that the ruling sends out a message that people in power are above the law.
“I find the decision truly shocking because one would never expect a Court of Appeal to turn down a request to start an inquiry when the Prime Minister’s very own Chief of Staff and one of his top cabinet Ministers have been caught opening a secret company in Panama to pocket €5,000 a day from one of the owners of the new power station,” Busuttil said in a Facebook post.
“The respected Venice Commission recently expressed serious concern on the rule of law in Malta and in particular, on the independence of the judiciary. However, I never imagined it would be such a struggle for justice to prevail in our country.”
Judge Giovanni Grixti on Tuesday overruled a 2017 decision by magistrate Ian Farrugia to accept Busuttil’s request for a wide-ranging magisterial inquiry into the Panama Papers, arguing that the former PN leader’s arguments were based on conjectures.
In his ruling, Grixti said that Busuttil had merely listed a list of facts without explicitly explaining his suspicion that Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri had planned to launder money through their infamous Panama companies.
“It is extremely unjust on the judicial system for a magistrate to be provided a roll call which, from [Busuttil’s] perspective, form part of an elaborate web and then be asked to extrapolate which of these occasions were a crime or an attempted crime,” Grixti said.
Moreover, the judge ruled that email correspondence between financial advisory firm Nexia BT and now-defunct Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca could not be used as evidence in a magisterial inquiry as they had been acquired by virtue of an unlawful “hack” on Mossack Fonseca’s servers.
This was a reference to how hundreds of thousands of internal Mossack Fonseca documents had been leaked by an anonymous whistleblower to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, kickstarting the global Panama Papers investigation.
In the meantime even the Panamanian authorities are persecuting numerous individuals due to #PanamaPapers-revelations. The U.S. indicted several, the Icelandic and Pakistani PMs had to step back, hundreds of investigations were launched worldwide. But hey… https://t.co/JFB2CX3IUZ
— Frederik Obermaier (@f_obermaier) January 9, 2019
Someone told them German federal police also got a similar data and verified the Maltese stuff?
The German journalists who broke the story, Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer, also criticised Grixti’s logic.
“In the meantime, even the Panamanian authorities are persecuting numerous individuals due to Panama Papers revelations,” Obermaier tweeted. “The U.S. indicted several, the Icelandic and Pakistani PMs had to step back, hundreds of investigations were launched worldwide. But hey…”
“Someone tell them German federal police also got similar data, verified the Maltese stuff and shared it with Malta,” Obermayer said.
Busuttil, who had frequently taken the government to task over the Panama Papers during his reign as PN leader, insisted he will not give up fighting for justice.
“After this week’s decision people are rightly asking [whether] the law really apply equally to everyone in our country or [whether] people in power are above the law,” he said. “How on earth can we ever get justice if none of our institutions are willing to investigate corruption by people in power? And after this judgment, should we give up hope of ever achieving justice under this corrupt Government?”
“We have a choice to make. We can either give up and let the corrupt get away scot-free. Or we can continue fighting for justice. My choice is clear. We must NEVER GIVE UP.”
The Labour Party has accused Busuttil of attacking the judicial system simply because it had proved him wrong.
“Whenever the courts agree with [Busuttil], he praises them and shouts out about how is striving for justice, but whenever he loses a case, he attacks them and says they aren’t allowing justice to prevail.”