Four financial services bodies expressed “deep concern about the current situation in the country", condemning “unacceptable” attacks on members of the judiciary and their work.

The warning by the Institute of Financial Services Practitioners, Malta Institute of Accountants, Malta Institute of Taxation and the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners follows scorn heaped by Robert Abela and Joseph Muscat on a magistrate and her inquiry into the Vitals' hospitals deal.

That magisterial inquiry triggered criminal charges against top political figures including Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri, former health minister Konrad Mizzi, deputy prime minister Chris Fearne and central bank governor Edward Scicluna.

Abela repeatedly claimed the magistrate purposely delayed the conclusions, that the inquiry was biased and that sections of the judiciary were part of an "establishment" that was out to destroy the Labour Party.

His comments earned him rebuke from NGOs, law students, employers and President Myriam Spiteri Debono among others.

On Friday the financial services bodies said such statements and actions undermined the independence and proper functioning of the country’s democratic institutions and also the public’s confidence in the judiciary.

“Attacks on the rule of law, members of the judiciary, or the judicial process itself are unacceptable in a democratic society," they said, warning of "untold repercussions that could have a severe, detrimental and lasting effect on the social well-being and stability of Malta".

Like the Chamber of SMEs, they also sounded the alarm about irreparable damage to the island's reputation in the eyes of current and future investors, economic operators, practitioners in the financial services industry and assessors.

'Address doubts through Commission for Administration of Justice'

The financial services bodies said the judiciary deserved the highest respect and should be allowed to function with “complete serenity”.  

“Any doubts should be addressed through the proper institutional channels that exist in a democratic country like Malta, such as the Commission for the Administration of Justice and certainly not via the media or political platforms,” they said.

The four financial services professional associations said their sector had been painstakingly built over 35 years, was a major contributor to Malta’s economy and a large employer.

“Any damage to our reputation as a stable, robust, and serious financial centre will negatively affect the country as a whole,” they said as they called on the authorities to act responsibly while upholding the principles of the rule of law, good governance and full respect for the country’s judiciary and the constitution.

Bankers’ union urges Edward Scicluna to suspend himself or resign

The Malta Union of Bank Employees separately denounced the attacks, calling for “a strict hands-off the law courts and the judiciary” and urging for “unconditional prudence and caution”.

The union also condemned anyone instigating people to take to the streets at such sensitive times as it can only cause harm. 

The PN has called a public protest linked to the Vitals hospitals scandal on Monday.

The union of bank employees said that “anything short of good governance will seriously jeopardize our nation’s credibility and stability, posing serious potential risk to the country’s current and future wellbeing".

When asked about its position on Central Bank governor Edward Scicluna, the union told Times of Malta he should either suspend himself or resign.

This also applies to anyone mentioned in the charges who holds public office, it said.

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