The Opposition’s case against the State Advocate claiming inaction in recovering funds on the fraudulent hospitals privatisation deal was “nothing but an abuse of the judicial process from start to finish”, the respondent replied on Thursday. 

There was no legal basis for urgency in what was a “purely political case,” the State Advocate said.

On Tuesday, Opposition leader Bernard Grech and Nationalist MP Adrian Delia filed an application before the First Hall, Civil Court requesting the court to order the State Advocate to take action against “present and past government officials involved in the deal".

They also asked the court to handle the case with urgency since this was a matter of national interest. 

Mr Giovanni Grixti who was assigned the case granted the respondents 48 hours to file a reply solely with respect to the applicants’ request for urgency. 

On Thursday, the State Advocate replied, objecting to the call for urgency.

The applicants had “intentionally and strategically” linked the notions of urgency and expediency and were trying to mislead the court by making out the case to be very different to what it actually was. 

'Strategic misguidance'

Such “strategic misguidance” was highly objectionable and on that basis alone, their request for urgency ought to be turned down. 

Every case had to be heard expediently but not necessarily with urgency, especially if such urgency was intended to score political points within a particular political timeline.

That should never constitute the aim of any judicial process. 

By linking urgency and expediency, the Opposition did so purposely so that the minute the court declared that the case was to be heard expediently, they would “cry victory”.

And even if the court were to turn down their request, the Opposition would still “cry victory” saying the case is to proceed expediently, knowing very well that expediency is an intrinsic element of the notion of fair hearing. 

The whole purpose of this case was for the Opposition to claim that it was only thanks to them that government took legal action to recover funds on the hospitals’ deal. But that was factually untrue, the State Advocate said.

The government took action before the International Chamber of Commerce back in April, after judgment was delivered by the first court hearing Delia’s Vitals case and the State Advocate was assisting as legal counsel to government.

That happened even before final judgment was delivered by the Court of Appeal in October.

However, the applicants had “conveniently” avoided mentioning this to take credit for any action in this regard. 

Now months later, the Opposition is calling upon the court to order the government to sue persons the court of appeal never identified or named individually.

On the other hand, international arbitration proceedings were filed against those who clearly have to answer to the Maltese government’s claims and none of them pleaded that they were non-suited. 

A 'means to an end'

Grech and Delia’s case was aimed at divesting the government of its powers, granted to it by popular mandate and the State Advocate was simply being used as “a means to an end.” 

This request for urgency was not pinned upon any national interest but “other interests.”

Besides, these proceedings could easily stultify those other arbitration proceedings or even worse, could give a strategic advantage to those sued by government. 

The applicants’ claims were based on “wrong premises, [that were] intentionally misleading and fallacious.”

Urgency applied in cases of irremediable prejudice. 

This case was to be heard without delay but also without any undue pressure since its outcome could produce effects and ramifications that reached beyond this lawsuit, potentially affecting the country’s institutional set up. 

The applicants themselves did not offer a legal basis for this request for urgency which applied in constitutional cases but not in this case that was “nothing but an abuse of the judicial process from start to finish.”

Lawyers James D’Agostino and Graziella Attard from the State Advocate’s Office signed the reply. 

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