A judge is to decide on May 14 whether to order the Attorney General to provide the Leader of the Opposition with a full copy of the Egrant inquiry report.
The inquiry was concluded at the end of July by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja but no information has been given other than a summary issued in a press statement by the Attorney General and a press conference given by the prime minister. The AG had said that the inquiry found that there was no evidence that the prime minister or his wife owned the secret Panama company known as Egrant.
Opposition leader Adrian Delia has since been calling for the full report to be published.
In final submissions on Monday before the constitutional court, Dr Vincent Galea, representing Dr Delia, objected to a claim made by the Attorney General in written submissions that while NGOs and investigative journalists may have a right for such information for their investigations, EU jurisprudence never made a mention of such a right for the leader of the opposition.
EU jurisprudence only mentioned journalists and NGOs because there never was a case anywhere where this type of information was not handed to the leader of the opposition, Dr Galea said.
And didn't the Opposition leader also have a right to inform the public?”
He argued that the AG's refusal to hand a copy of the report to the leader of the opposition meant that the prime minister had an advantage over other persons in the political arena. Indeed, copies had been handed to lawyer Pawlu Lia, the Justice Minister and Kurt Farriugia, who was the prime minister's spokesman, although these were not mentioned in the AG's written submissions.
Was there anything to hide?
Furthermore, throughout the hearing of the case there had been strong opposition to the summoning of certain witnesses.
When the Police Commissioner was summoned to testify, certain questions had not been allowed. The witness had made reference to ‘ongoing investigations.’
When were these to be concluded? Was the country to remain in this state of uncertainty?.
Dr Galea stressed that it was for the Attorney General to prove that his refusal to hand over a copy of the report had been justified.
The AG could at least have been granted Dr Delia permission to see the report at the AG’s Office, a right sometimes afforded to journalists. But not even a redacted copy had been offered. In this case there was an outright refusal, Dr Galea stressed.
But since the document had effectively been published, the Opposition Leader had a constitutional a right to a copy so as to inform the public.“Was the AG's decision to refuse a copy proportional to the breach of the Opposition leader's right for such information?
Dr Galea urged Mr Justice Robert Mangion, to obtain copy of the report and take it into account before delivering judgment, thus being in a better position to assess whether the AG’s refusal was proportional to the alleged breach of the opposition leader's rights.
Moreover, if the conclusions exonerated the PM’s wife, “why not publish the relative facts contained in the first part of the report? It would have added weight to the conclusions”, Dr Galea argued.
In his reaction, the Attorney General said this had been an administrative decision that was subject to judicial review and Dr Delia therefore ought have resorted to the ordinary courts rather than seek a constitutional remedy.
He pointed out that it had stated, in a press conference, that a copy of the report had been given to the prime minister.
Although the Egrant inquiry had been requested by the prime minister in his personal capacity, it had acquired a constitutional status since the PM’s office had been involved in its outcome.
“Hence one needs to distinguish between the PM and others who just want a copy of the report for sake of political debate,” Dr Grech went on.
As to whether a redaction of the report should have been made available, he argued that this would have immediately prompted speculation as to the parts blocked out. Hence redaction was not an option.
“As for the argument that other persons had access to the report for the purpose of publication, this found no basis in the court proceedings and was not supported by evidence. Here we are in the realm of speculation.” Dr Grech argued.
The case was adjourned for judgment on May 14.