Opposition leader Adrian Delia insisted before the Constitutional Court on Wednesday that it was crucial for the opposition to be handed the full Egrant inquiry report so that it could properly exercise its function as “watchdog of the executive.”
Dr Delia was testifying in a case he had instituted, calling on the attorney general to immediately hand him a copy of the report, which was handed to the prime minister at the end of July.
The inquiry was conducted by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja after Daphne Caruana Galia reported that trust documents showed the prime minister's wife to the the ultimate beneficiary of proceeds in a secret Panama company called Egrant. The prime minister and his wife had denied the claims, and the inquiry found no evidence to support the claims.
On my way to court to expose how the AG has and is still breaching the Constitution to favour the party in government @JosephMuscat_JM @MaltaGov . This is the fight for Freedom of speech. This is the struggle for Democracy ✊ #malta #socjetalijimpurtaha— Adrian Delia (@adriandeliapn) September 5, 2018
“For the fulfilment of his duties, the attorney general felt that the prime minister had to have a full copy of the report. I am also entitled to that right in order to be able to perform my function as leader of the opposition,” Dr Delia said.
He further pointed out that as for the PM’s personal interest in the inquiry, such an interest could have been satisfied by being handed the magistrate's conclusions.
The terms of the inquiry were answered in the conclusions “yet the attorney general chose to give the prime minister the full report. Therefore the leader of the opposition equally has a right to the full report in order to perform his constitutional role,” Dr Delia continued.
He pointed out that as soon as the report was handed over to the PM “and possibly others” the information it contained had been used by Dr Muscat and the Labour Party, while the PN were being deprived of the same possibility.
There were other political persons or PEPs who might have been granted access to the full report, such as “Pilatus Bank, Azerbaijani institutions….I don’t know if these have been given a copy of the full report,” Dr Delia said.
“Just a few days ago Dr Muscat said that ‘the trust signatures were not the only forgeries.’ He knows something I don’t,” Dr Delia pointed out, adding that there were persons mentioned in the report who acted as advisers to government.
“I have a right, more still an obligation, to that information in order to be able to counter such statements made by the government… and yet the attorney general believes that I don’t have the right to the full report.”
Referring to the published conclusions, Dr Delia pointed out that, for instance, Keith Schembri, the prime minister's chief of staff, had two personal accounts in his name as a client of Pilatus Bank.
The KYC (Know Your Client) forms ran into some 78 pages, yet it was declared that the transactions were few and spread over a considerable period of time.
“How few? What was their value? Did it run into thousands, millions? We don’t know, but the prime minister does,” Dr Delia said, adding that on account of such lack of information he was unable to raise issues concerning Mr Schembri.
With every line I read, I see crucial political information of public interest that was handed to the PM but was kept hidden from the Leader of the Opposition.- Delia:
The prime minister also had all the information concerning the “persons in Azerbaijan” mentioned in the Egrant report and transactions with Willerby Trading Ltd which constituted the subject of a separate inquiry conducted by magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras, Dr Delia went on.
“Whether there was criminal liability, whether this issue fell within the remit of the inquiry (by magistrate Aaron Bugeja) is besides the point,” Dr Delia insisted. “Political responsibility is what counts.”
“With every line I read, I see that there was crucial political information of public interest that was handed to the PM but was kept hidden from the Leader of the Opposition,”Dr Delia concluded.
He urged the court remedy the situation as soon as possible.
Earlier Dr Delia said he was offended by a remark by the attorney general that such court cases were instituted for media purposes, saying a constitutional lawsuit such as this was being ridiculed and shorn of its importance.
Shortly before, Attorney General Peter Grech had declared that “most cases were done for the media” when denying a report that in the previous sitting he had declared that he refused to exhibit correspondence exchanged between the prime and himself.
He said he had never stated that he would not exhibit such correspondence or that he had such correspondence with the prime minister, remarking that such statements were being flung in the presence of the media, which would thus be fed incorrect information.
Under cross-examination by deputy attorney general Philip Galea Farrugia, Dr Delia insisted that as stated in the constitutional application, the attorney general had created a “political imbalance” which had to be rectified.
Asked whether he still believed in his earlier statement at press conference shortly after publication of the report, that ‘nothing in the inquiry would alter the conclusions,’ Dr Delia declared that “irrespective of this, it would not change anything.”
A question as to whether the Opposition Leader had faith in Magistrate Bugeja was ruled out as “absolutely irrelevant” by presiding Mr Justice Robert Mangion who disallowed the question.
Lawyers Joseph Giglio, Errol Cutajar, Bernard Grech, Janice Chetcuti and Andre Portelli were also counsel to Dr Delia. Lawyer Maurizio Cordina from the AG’s Office was also counsel to the respondent.