The entire Egrant inquiry will not be published for “at least a few weeks”, as the government is still being advised against it, The Sunday Times of Malta is informed.
Sources in the Office of the Prime Minister told The Sunday Times of Malta on Saturday that police investigators had asked the government not to publish the magisterial inquiry until its preliminary investigations had been concluded.
The investigation is being carried out by the police’s Economic Crimes Unit, with investigators telling the newspaper that they had spent the last few days coming to grips with the mammoth 1,500-page inquiry document.
“This is a huge task. Inspectors have only just started reading through the document itself, which is voluminous and full of detail, with potential leads and different things that all require review,” a source working on the investigation said.
Although they were reluctant to give even the slightest hint of what the police investigations were focusing on, the sources would not rule out future arraignments related to the case.
Magistrate Aaron Bugeja’s investigation into claims Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s wife owned the Panama company Egrant was concluded and handed over to the Attorney General last week.
So far, only the main conclusions of the inquiry – a 49-page executive summary – have been made public.
Dr Muscat was quick to claim vindication and absolution from the main conclusions, which detail how the magistrate found no proof that Egrant belonged to him or his wife.
The inquiry was first sparked by reports by the late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who wrote on her blog, Running Commentary, that Ms Muscat was the secret owner of Egrant. Ms Caruana Galizia went on to claim that the company had been used to receive $1.07million in graft from Azerbaijan’s ruling elite.
Her story was largely based on the testimony of a whistleblower source, former Pilatus Bank employee Maria Efimova. The Prime Minister was quick to brand the allegation “the greatest political lie ever told” and pledged to resign should a magisterial inquiry into the matter find “even a shred of truth”.
Inspectors have only just started reading through the document
In the main findings of his report, Magistrate Bugeja cast doubts on Ms Efimova’s testimony and found the allegations, first published by Ms Caruana Galizia in April 2017, did not appear to be backed by proof.
Meanwhile, observers have questioned who the Panamanian company really belonged to if not Ms Muscat – insisting that the case could not be considered closed until the whole truth is known.
The Opposition has requested a copy of the full inquiry, which the AG has so far denied. Opposition leader Adrian Delia has said he will be filing court proceedings in a bid to get his hands on the entire document.
The Prime Minister, meanwhile, has insisted that he intends to publish the entire inquiry, despite the AG advising against it. Dr Muscat has said that a lengthy process is under way to make sure that releasing the document does not intrude upon the privacy of third parties or hinder investigations and possible future proceedings.
Again, this has been met with raised eyebrows from some, who question the independence of the redaction process.
At the OPM, sources on Saturday told The Sunday Times of Malta a number of legal minds were being consulted on publication, including the dean of the University of Malta’s Faculty of Law.
Sources said the advice given to Dr Muscat so far had been split between those who felt the full publication was a non-starter and others who believed that following redaction, the document could, theoretically, be put in the public domain.
“We are receiving a lot of advice against publication. One matter that has been brought to our attention is the concern that in the case of future court proceedings, parties could argue they have been subject to a trial by media and had their right to presumption of innocence violated,” a source said.
Either way, the document is not expected to see the light of day for some weeks to come.
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