Updated 3.45pm

Joseph Muscat will appear in court to answer criminal charges on May 28,  Times of Malta can confirm.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello has set a Tuesday, May 28 court date for Muscat and others charged with crimes in connection with the hospitals privatisation deal to appear in court.

Muscat, his former lieutenants Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, and several others stand accused of bribery, trading in influence, money laundering and various other crimes.

Only Muscat – who has said that the charges are a “hatchet job” – and another of those charged alongside him, auditor Chris Spiteri, have spoken out about the prosecutions.

Magistrate abstains from second case

A second tier of defendants facing charges includes Chris Fearne, who resigned as minister on Friday, and Central Bank Governor Edward Scicluna. 

The case against those defendants will be heard by Magistrate Leonard Caruana, who must now set a date for their arraignment. 

Magistrate Montebello was initially due to hear the case against Fearne, Scicluna and others too, but abstained from the case on Friday.  

Prosecutors filed charges against all those they allege played a part in the criminal conspiracy earlier this week.

Muscat and his co-defendants have been charged under court summons, rather than arrest. That means they will walk into court and be allowed to return home after entering a [presumably not guilty] plea.

The criminal charges stem from a magisterial inquiry into the now-annulled  30-year, €4 billion deal that Muscat's government signed to privatise three state hospitals. 

That inquiry report - which Prime Minister Robert Abela has decried as biased despite saying he has not read it - is being held at the Attorney General's office and has not been made public. 

However, on Thursday a civil court ordered that Muscat be given access to all documents in the inquiry report that refer or relate to him. Muscat is seeking to convince the court that the magistrate who led the probe was prejudiced against him. 

Civil society group Repubblika, which triggered the probe back in 2019, said on Friday that Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg is "sabotaging" the case against Muscat.

Buttigieg, Repubblika alleged, has ordered the State Advocate to not file an objection to the decision to grant Muscat access to parts of the inquiry.   

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