Updated 3.25pm (Adds PL statement)

Judge Antonio Mizzi should be recused from an appeals case concerning Panama Papers-related claims, the Nationalist Party has said.

Mr Justice Mizzi, who is married to Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi, is set to hear appeals against a court decision to investigate whether top government officials broke money laundering laws.

PN leader Simon Busuttil yesterday suggested the judge had a conflict of interest, given his marriage to Mrs Mizzi, in comments which drew condemnation from the Chamber of Advocates

In a statement calling for the comments to be retracted, the Chamber criticised Dr Busuttil for placing "inappropriate pressure on the honourable judge". 

READ: Lawyers slam Busuttil's comments about judge Mizzi

But the PN quickly replied, saying that rather than an attack on Mr Justice Mizzi or the judiciary, Dr Busuttil's comments should be seen as a defence of the judiciary's independence. 

The judiciary, the PN said, "is currently under threat by the Labour government, which is appointing prominent Labour politicians to the bench so as to control the one state organ it has yet to secure control of." 

In its statement, the PN said that it would be filing a formal request to have Mr Justice Mizzi recused from the appeals case. 

Request for urgency

Earlier today, Dr Busuttil filed two separate court applications asking that appeals against a magistrate's decree to investigate money laundering claims be heard with urgency. 

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi all filed appeals last week against a magistrate's decree that the prerequisites for an inquiry had been satisfied.

Appeals were also filed by Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna and Karl Cini, as well as Kasco Group’s Malcolm Scerri and Times of Malta's former managing director Adrian Hillman.

The application requesting the magisterial inquiry was filed by Dr Busuttil last week.

It gave a timeline of the main Panama Papers events, showing how Mr Cini attempted to open up accounts for Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri which would have required annual deposits of close to $1 million.

The court applications filed by Dr Busuttil today were signed by Jason Azzopardi. 

Opposition leader's behaviour 'shameful'

In a statement, the Labour Party said the Opposition leader's behaviour was shameful.

It said Dr Busuttil was with his back to the wall trying to save face from his party's massive electoral defeat and was attacking the judiciary and its members. He had also been requested to withdraw his statement by the Chamber of Advocates.

But instead of doing so, he continued to attack members of the judiciary because he believed he could say and do what he wanted.

This, the PL said, was not the first time that Dr Busuttil had asked for a magistrate to be recused.

On the other hand, whether or not the PL agreed with decisions taken by the court, it would continue to respect them because this was what responsibility and respect towards the institutions entailed, it said.

 

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