Attorney General Peter Grech advised the police there was no legal basis on which they could seal off Pilatus Bank on the night former prime minister Joseph Muscat was linked to the mystery Panama company Egrant.
In a blog post published on April 20, 2017, Daphne Caruana Galizia had said evidence of Egrant’s ownership could be found in a safe at the Ta’ Xbiex bank.
That same night, Pilatus’ owner Ali Sadr was famously filmed leaving the bank with two suitcases.
Analysis of CCTV footage within the bank by the Egrant inquiry established that Sadr took one document out of the bank with him, which was handed to him by the bank’s former chief operating officer, Luis Felipe Rivera.
A source familiar with the chain of events that night told Times of Malta that Grech advised former deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta there was no legal reason to seal off the bank.
“The advice not to intervene when [Ali] Sadr went to the bank was given directly by the attorney general to Valletta. The reason given was that there was no justification at law for the police to intervene simply because the bank’s owner went to his bank,” the source said.
Former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar also came under fire for failing to act that night, especially after he was interviewed outside an Mġarr restaurant.
Contacted by Times of Malta, Grech said he was not allowed to disclose legal advice in the media.
Grech said the scope of advice from the attorney general was not to tell law enforcement entities how to do their job, but to advise on the legality of a line of action they may be considering, or of other possible options.
The attorney general said the advice given aims at drawing the limits of what is legally acceptable, what incurs legal risk and what is not legally permissible.
He said media “allegations” do not necessarily justify arrests or other coercive action by law enforcement authorities on its sole basis.
“Malta’s past experience with European Court of Human Rights cases proves this,” Grech said.
Former economic crimes unit chief Ian Abdilla was heavily criticised by the board leading the inquiry into Caruana Galizia’s murder for not intervening earlier at the bank.
The bank was only sealed off the following day, after the former prime minister had designed the terms of reference for an inquiry headed by then- magistrate Aaron Bugeja.
That same inquiry led to the seizure of data from Nexia BT, one year after it emerged that the financial advisory firm had set up asset-concealing structures in Panama for Muscat’s chief of staff Keith Schembri and former tourism minister Konrad Mizzi.
Egrant was one of the three companies bought by Nexia BT from the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, with the other two companies going to Schembri and Mizzi.
When the Panama Papers leak first emerged in April 2016, Grech told the police that seizures of Nexia BT’s server would be “highly intrusive” and “drastic”, advice the police readily agreed with.
No evidence linking Muscat or his wife Michelle to Egrant was found by the magisterial inquiry.
The police were ordered by the inquiring magistrate to investigate who could have been behind the forgery of documents linking Muscat to the offshore company, but to date, no one has been charged.
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