Former State prosecutor turned criminal lawyer Charles Mercieca was nominated by the government to be Malta’s candidate for the European Public Prosecutors’ Office, which sources have described as a delay tactic due to his massive inexperience.
The information was revealed by Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi in parliament this evening. He explained that Mercieca’s interview took place on 5th December 2019, but the EU immediately dismissed Mercieca’s application. He said he has confirmed all the information.
Mercieca’s application to the EPPO has raised eyebrows, given that the candidate should be “someone with proven and extensive experience in prosecution and mutual legal assistance.”
Malta has received strong criticism for delaying the process to introduce the EPPO, which would be able to prosecute and investigate cross border financial issues, such a fraud, corruption or VAT fraud. Malta was initially not part of the program but joined following pressure over corruption allegations.
Each of the 22 member states that join the EPPO must nominate three candidates, one of whom will be appointed after a rigorous interview.
There have been public calls in Malta for the position, but no final candidate has been selected. Sources have suggested that the EPPO is furious with the decision to present Mercieca as a candidate, especially following the news of his move to Fenech’s legal team.
While declining to comment on the specifics of the case, the EPPO told Lovin Malta:
“The European Public Prosecutor’s Office is indeed concerned by the delay in appointing the College of European Prosecutors which is caused by Malta’s failure to propose three eligible candidates for the position of European Prosecutor so far.”
“Our initial timeline counted with the EPPO College to be in place last summer and in any case at the end of 2019, for the EPPO to be able to start operations at the end of this year.”
Mercieca, a recent graduate and son of former Labour MP Franco Mercieca, resigned from his position in the Office of the Attorney General on 5th May, only to appear in court the next morning on behalf of Fenech. Fenech is the Tumas Group businessman charged with the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
“Mercieca made the agreement behind the back of the AG and Deputy AG. They were uninformed when he had an obligation to do so,” Azzopardi said in parliament.
Justice Minister Zammit Lewis has described Mercieca’s behaviour as “insensitive” and has ordered an independent inquiry into the issue.
Azzopardi also made reference to a court case two months ago where Mercieca, as a state prosecutor, argued to reduce the prison sentence of a public official accused of money laundering who worked in the fisheries department.
The Justice Ministry is yet to reply to questions as to whether Mercieca was nominated by the government to the EPPO.
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