The magistrate presiding over the compilation of evidence against Zenith Finance’s Matthew Pace and Lorraine Falzon had harsh words for the prosecution today, over the testimony given by witnesses in the case.
During today’s sitting, the court, which is being presided over by Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech, heard from a number of witnesses from various regulatory entities which were asked to provide the information they had about the accused.
During the sitting, a representative from MFSA who was called to testify presented the court with a CD and a pen drive containing a list of all the transactions between a number of individuals that held accounts with the financial services firm.
The court, unhappy with the fact that the evidence was being presented as a password-protected soft copy, questioned the relevance of the information being provided.
It was at this point that tensions started to flare, with defence lawyers Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo arguing that the information had already been submitted to the magisterial inquiry.
Asked what the information she was submitted constituted, the witness said she did not know, explaining that the MFSA had simply been asked to provide all the information it had on the accused and the company. The court, unconvinced with what she had just heard, did not allow the witness to submit the evidence.
It was the next witness’s testimony that broke the camel’s back. Prosecuting lawyer Andre Camilleri from the Attorney General’s office asked the witness to tell the court what she had been asked to testify about.
“You cannot ask such open-ended questions, what if she says something that ends up incriminating someone else. You need to be specific with your questions,” she said, to which the lawyer replied that it was a question of style and that he would be getting to the point.
The court, however, was having none of it, telling off the lawyer and the rest of the prosecution for not “streamlining” the evidence being presented to the court.
The witness said she had been asked to testify about all the information she had about the accused, prompting Gatt to raise a point of law, insisting that the court could not allow the prosecution to present evidence that did not relate to the charges against the accused.
“You cannot summon people to present all the information they have when the relevant period is between 2008 and 2018. This isn’t some fishing expedition,” the court said.
Gatt further noted that there needed to be a level playing field between the prosecution and the defence. He said that he wanted to note a comment by Camilleri, who said that he “knew perfectly what was in the inquiry”, adding that it was unacceptable that the defence still had not been provided with a copy.
The court was in agreement once again, noting that it too had not seen the contents of the inquiry despite repeatedly hearing about its contents.
The matter as to whether or not the inquiry on which the charges are based should be provided to the defence has arisen on a number of occasions over the past weeks, with the central issue appearing to be the fact that police investigations into the alleged crimes only started after they were concluded.
It appears that this is, at least partly, the reason for the prosecution’s reluctance to provide copies to the remaining parties.
The court insisted that only documentation that was directly relevant to the case be submitted by witnesses and that this be communicated to them when they are summoned to testify.
Pace, who has been described in court as a professional money launderer, is the owner of the financial services firm Zenith, previously MFSP Finance, while Falzon was a director and the firm’s money laundering reporting officer.
Both are shareholders in the firm and have been accused of corruption and money laundering among other charges stemming from magisterial inquiries into the dealings of former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.
You can read a blow-by-blow account of today’s sitting here. The case continues on 12th May.
What do you make of the court’s warning?