The rule-of-law NGO Repubblika fears a court is intent on going after its sources rather than ensuring the police act on the conclusions of a magisterial inquiry into Pilatus Bank.

The NGO had initiated a court battle after discovering that the police “failed” to act on all the findings of the inquiry, including a recommendation that former bank chairman Ali Sadr and a number of senior staff should be charged with money-laundering.

So far, only the bank as a financial institution and former official, Claude-Ann Sant Fournier, have been charged in connection with the inquiry, though the police deny a deliberate go-slow on the rest of the findings.

Robert Aquilina, who heads Repubblika, has now accused Nadine Lia, the magistrate overseeing the NGO’s case against the police, of instead choosing to focus on the NGO’s sources.

Court filings show Lia ordered the police to say if and how Repubblika were given a copy of the inquiry’s findings.

In reply, the police said they had never passed on a copy to Repubblika, and neither, to their knowledge, was there any authorisation for the inquiry’s findings to be made public.

Magistrate is focusing on NGO’s sources

In comments to Times of Malta, Aquilina said the courts’ and police commissioner’s resources should be spent on fighting criminality not the efforts of civil society activists.

'Determined to protect my sources'

“The unprecedented and shocking fact that Magistrate Lia ordered the police commissioner to focus on how civil society activists got to know about the conclusions of the Pilatus Bank inquiry, rather than on the duty to prosecute Ali Sadr Hesheminejad and his accomplices, is very worrying from a rule of law and democratic point of view.

“Needless to say, I am determined to protect my sources, come what may,” Aquilina said.

Prior to Lia writing to the police, Repubblika had demanded that the magistrate recuse herself from their case on grounds of conflict of interest.

Repubblika lawyer and ex-PN MP Jason Azzopardi pointed out in written submissions that the magistrate is the daughter-in-law of lawyer Pawlu Lia, who used to represent Keith Schembri.

According to Repubblika, the Pilatus inquiry flagged possible trading-in-influence by the former OPM chief of staff, who enjoyed a close relationship with the bank’s chairman.

Furthermore, Azzopardi pointed out that Pawlu Lia is also the lawyer of former prime minister Joseph Muscat.

Times of Malta reported last year that foreign experts who worked on the Pilatus inquiry had recommended further investigative steps be taken to get to the bottom of claims surrounding Panama company Egrant.

The Panama company was once linked to Muscat’s wife Michelle, but a separate inquiry had uncovered evidence that documents supporting the claim had been forged.

Repubblika further alleged that Pawlu Lia had confronted Aquilina last month in Valletta and, in an “aggressive” tone, demanded that “his family be left alone.”

The “confrontation” came about after the request for Magistrate Nadine Lia to recuse herself due to being Lia’s daughter-in-law, Repubblika said.

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