Updated 6.45pm

A judge has thrown out all arguments made by the Attorney General in a bid not to testify in proceedings where NGO Repubblika is requesting the court to annul her decision not to prosecute top officials of Pilatus Bank.

The decree was delivered on the eve of the next hearing in civil proceedings filed by Repubblika, calling upon the First Hall, Civil Court to strike down the AG’s decision not to prosecute five high-ranking officials at the now-shuttered bank as well as former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.

The civil society organization is claiming that the AG's decision was “null, invalid and ineffective,” as it ran counter to the orders of the magistrate who had conducted the inquiry into suspected financial crimes at Pilatus Bank.

At the first sitting, Repubblika had presented authenticated copies of documents from that inquiry showing that although international and European arrest warrants had been issued, no criminal action followed against five targeted officials.

Attorney General fights request

Among the witnesses Repubblika intended to summon in the case for judicial review, was Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg and police inspector Pauline D’Amato.

Last Friday, merely four days before the scheduled hearing, the AG filed an application requesting the court, presided over by Mr Justice Christian Falzon Scerri, to reverse the decision upholding Repubblika’s summons.

But in Monday's decision, the judge said the AG knew about the summons since September 26 and she should have filed her request earlier, rather than at the last minute.

The AG had also argued that only an injured party could object to the state prosecutor’s decision not to prosecute particular individuals and in this case, Repubblika’s status was not that of injured party.

Court shoots down AG's arguments

However, the court said that this argument was “incomprehensible” since this was a civil case, not a criminal action.

“What sort of review could be done if the AG provided no information?”observed the judge.

Repubblika, the judge said, had no option but to summon the AG since they were challenging her decision and it was Buttigieg herself who had signed the reply to Repubblika’s claim.

Furthermore, the AG argued that Malta was facing international arbitration proceedings on the matter.

But the judge said that unless he received a formal and authentic copy of a decision by an international judicial organ ordering these proceedings to stop, this case would go ahead.

Finally, the AG argued that no document from the proces verbal or the compilation of evidence or documentation concerning criminal matters, could be exhibited without the AG’s authorisation, unless deposited in the court registry.

But this argument did not hold water when the party under review was the AG herself and the AG could not make use of this provision of law to stop the court from doing its duty, the judge said. 

A similar request for inspector D’Amato not to testify was also turned down.

AG files - and loses - second bid to block testimony

Having had an initial bid to not testify rebuffed by the court, the attorney general made a second, last-minute bid to reconsider that decision later on Monday. 

Inspector D'Amato also filed a similar, separate request. 

But those renewed bids were also turned down by the court, with Judge Falzon Scerri decreeing that no new argument to induce the court to change its mind had been produced. 

Repubblika’s request fell within the parameters of its action for judicial review, the judge said. Whether it was right or not was still to be seen in the final judgment. 

The AG and the police officer also claimed that this morning’s decree breached their fundamental rights, but the court observed that those rights were not reserved for government entities. 

Nor did the argument about the perceived breach of presumption of innocence apply, stated the judge, confirming the order whereby both the AG and the inspector were to testify. 

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