The fresh arraignment of a group of people and companies in connection with the hospitals scandal has been delayed by a week after the Attorney General’s office left it too late to seek the revocation of a decree that annulled the first sitting. 

Two former senior ministers and three permanent secretaries and a group of other individuals and companies were due to appear in court on Tuesday but the case was deferred to Monday, June 17. 

An eleven-hour marathon Vitals sitting was annulled two weeks ago after defence lawyers pointed out that one of the persons charged had not been duly notified. 

Former deputy prime minister Chris Fearne and Central Bank Governor Edward Scicluna, together with three permanent secretaries and nine officials, had pleaded not guilty to fraud and other crimes allegedly linking them to the now-annulled hospitals privatisation deal. 

But as the session entered its tenth hour late in the evening on May 29, lawyers defending DF Advocates, as the only ‘non-natural person’ on the charge sheet, argued the name was not a juridical entity but just a “trade name.” 

Furthermore, three of those charged in court, namely chief financial officer Kenneth Deguara, and lawyers Kevin Deguara and Jean Carl Farrugia from DF Advocates were present in court but had been notified of the charges in their personal capacity not as representatives of the entity, argued the defence. 

Faced with those arguments and after checking the notices of summons, Magistrate Leonard Caruana decreed that DF Advocates had not been duly notified, spelling nullity of the hearing. 

However, last Thursday, prosecuting lawyers from the Attorney General’s office filed an application requesting the court to reverse that decree and proceed with the hearing at the point where it was left off. 

That meant the court was to proceed with the personal details of DF Advocates as represented by Kenneth Deguara, Kevin Deguara and/or Jean Carl Farrugia, argued the prosecutors. 

In fact, all three had been charged in their personal capacity and on behalf of DF Advocates and that meant that the entity was actually represented in court, argued the prosecution. 

DF Advocates had also been registered in terms of article 88A of the Code of Organization and Civil Procedure since April 2022. 

That registration gave it a distinct and separate juridical personality. 

They argued that the court was wrong in declaring that one of the persons charged was not duly notified. Everyone was served with notice of summons and each person was told what charges they were facing, whether in their personal capacity or as representing DF Advocates. 

All were present at the sitting. 

The court minuted that “DF Advocates represented by Dr Kevin Deguara, Dr Jean Carl Farrugia and Dr Kenneth Deguara assisted by lawyers Ezekiel Psaila, Franco Debono and Jonathan Thompson.” 

However, the application calling for the revocation of the decree was filed on Thursday, on the eve of a public holiday and weekend, leaving the presiding magistrate with no time to deal with the request before Tuesday’s sitting. 

The magistrate was not happy with the situation, saying “It would have been far better for the administration of justice” had such a request been filed earlier, allowing the court sufficient time to work on it. 

He said it was "humanly impossible" to work on the request and decide upon it till Tuesday's scheduled hearing (because of late filing).

Warning all parties that it would not tolerate a repeat, the court deferred the hearing to Monday and ordered notification of the decree to all persons charged, the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner.

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