Updated 5.30pm, adds PN statement

The Nationalist Party has called for the resignation of the Attorney General and the Justice Minister following a dramatic day in court involving one of the men at the heart of the 2010 HSBC heist. 

Its statement followed an earlier one by civil society group Repubblika, which also called for the AG’s resignation for her “betrayal of justice”.

The calls were made shortly after Darren Debono, known as it-Topo, flatly refused to name accomplices in the heist apart from Vince Muscat. He refused to do so in spite of a plea bargain for his role in the robbery and the attempted murder of two policemen. 

During the botched heist, three men, wearing wigs and fake moustaches had entered the HSBC building in Qormi.

The police arrived on the scene after receiving a tip-off about suspicious activity at the building and, on their arrival, a vehicle, parked in front of the bank, sped off with the officers giving chase.

The three men were still inside the bank when someone called for help and the officers returned. 

When the intruders tried to leave, a shoot-out erupted in which experts estimate around 60 rounds were fired. During the commotion, a second getaway car managed to escape with all the intruders.

"The shocking developments in our courts in the past hours confirm that the Robert Abela government is a tool for criminals and a threat to people's safety," the PN said.

It said that it had warned what would happen in the past weeks and the AG failed to explain her decision which led to the current situation.

The Justice Minister’s failure to publicly state his position on the AG’s actions confirmed that he was an accomplice, together with the Prime Minister, in a web of interests and abuses from which the PL and key politicians within Labour benefitted.

In this case, the PN continued, the decisions were taken to protect Minister Carmelo Abela and former minister Chris Cardona.

It said that under Labour, criminals had their mind at rest that if they are caught they will get the deal they want through the AG’s intervention.

At the same time, the PN said, people who behaved well felt threatened and lacked peace of mind for fear of persecution.

In its statement, Repubblika said that like the rest of Malta, it was “shocked and disgusted” that the AG had pardoned Debono, saving him “a long and merited” prison term.

Prime Minister Robert Abela last month defended the deal reached with Debono. 

Prime Minister Robert Abela defended the deal last month.

The Attorney General’s decision to reach a plea pardon agreement with Debono was not in the interest of justice but in the interest of certain people, who had already been named by Vince Muscat, the rule of law NGO said.

Muscat had himself offered up details of the heist to investigators in a bid to secure his own pardon. 

In 2020, Times of Malta had reported on the information offered up, including the alleged involvement of Labour MP Carmelo Abela.

On Thursday, Debono was meant to give evidence in the case against Muscat. His testimony was meant to be given in exchange for a 10-year plea deal.

But upon finally taking to the witness stand after weeks of legal wrangling about the admissibility of his evidence, he flatly refused to name any accomplices in the heist, apart from Muscat, on grounds that he feared for his family.

“It is clear from what we saw in court today that the AG’s decision was not in the interest of justice but in the interest of people who Vince Muscat has already named and was willing to testify that they were accomplices,” Repubblika said.

Before the current process started, Muscat had identified Minister Carmelo Abela and former minister Chris Cardona as accomplices in the crime, it said. Both Abela and Cardona deny involvement in the crime. 

Muscat had offered to name all accomplices but his plea bargain request was refused, it added, noting that the AG had opted to process the witness who was willing to name all and pardon the one who did not want to name anyone.

Repubblika said that the function of the AG was not to protect ministers but to see that justice is done.

It said that when the news of the plea bargain with Debono had come out, it had asked the AG to explain her decision since he had been accused of trying to kill policemen on duty and had in the past been caught lying under oath.

But the AG had ignored Repubblika’s request.

Whatever her motives, the group said, she had allowed a person who tried to kill officers to escape justice and his accomplices will remain free, ridiculing the country.

Repubblika said later it will be holding a protest in front of the Attorney General's office in Valletta on Friday at 6.30pm.

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