Former minister Konrad Mizzi has switched lawyers and is now being legally represented by a controversial former magistrate and the legal advisor to one of Malta's largest construction magnates.

Mizzi spent the night in police custody after being questioned on Tuesday over his communication with businessman and Daphne Caruana Galizia murder accused Yorgen Fenech.

But as interrogation continues on Wednesday, the independent MP's new legal team has aroused curiosity in legal circles.

Mizzi has previously been represented by lawyer Aaron Mifsud Bonnici in magisterial inquiries into alleged wrongdoing but is now being assisted by former magistrate Carol Peralta and lawyer Jean Paul Sammut. 

Legal sources described the move by a former magistrate to offer criminal defense services as “odd”. 

The 68-year-old faced two impeachment motions to remove him from the bench, has been linked to freemasonry and once hosted a headline-grabbing Christmas party in his courtroom.

He was first brought into the spotlight in 1990 when he was a magistrate at the Gozo Court and had been cast into the national spotlight over the granting of ownership rights for the Sant’ Antnin Battery in Qala. 

Alternattiva Demokratika MP Wenzu Mintoff in 1990, asked for his removal on Peralta on grounds of “misbehaviour” but there was no legal procedure to probe magistrates at the time.

In 1994 then prime minister Eddie Fenech Adami had presented another impeachment motion against Peralta. 

At the time the newly established Commission for the Administration of Justice had refused Fenech Adami’s motion, saying there were no grounds for the impeachment motion to be debated in parliament. 

The reasons behind the motion were never made public. 

In the 1990s, Peralta had been outed as a senior freemason at Paola’s Leinster lodge when his name appeared on a letter the masonic brothers sent after his appointment to the bench. 

The code of ethics for the judiciary makes it clear that a member of the judiciary cannot be a freemason.

“Membership of masonic lodges and secret associations is incompatible with the holding of judicial office. Likewise membership of any association that requires a promise of allegiance from its members is incompatible with judicial office,” the ethics rule book says. 

Peralta returned to service in the Maltese courts in 2012 after having served eight years in war crimes tribunals as part of the UN mission in Kosovo, having left Malta in 2003 with 283 pending magisterial inquiries.

Magistrate Peralta once again came under fire after having held a party in his courtroom in Christmas 2013. 

He had ordered the arrest of a Times of Malta reporter who was sent to look into the court room party and the secretive Commission for the Administration of Justice was asked to investigate the matter. 

In 2015, Peralta resigned from the bench, two years shy of the maximum retirement age.

Joining the ex-magistrate in Mizzi's legal team is Jean Paul Sammut, legal advisor to construction magnate Charles Polidano, known as ic-Caqnu. For the past few years he has also been building his own private practice. 

In 2015, Sammut had been appointed chief executive of Polidano’s sprawling Montekristo Estates in Ħal-Farruġ.  

Sources told Times of Malta that Mizzi was yesterday questioned over suspicious conversations he had with alleged Daphne Caruana Galizia murder conspirator Yorgen Fenech. 

He is expected to face further questions on Wednesday, as part of what sources described as a police investigation into suspected trading in influence. 

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