A government official found guilty of money laundering and fraud avoided prison time because of an unsanctioned decision taken by former State lawyer Charles Mercieca, Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi said on Tuesday. 

Azzopardi told the House that Mercieca, a former lawyer at the Attonery General’s office, had been behind a court declaration that saw a public official found guilty of money laundering avoid any jail time whatsoever.

The declaration, he said, had been taken "behind the AG's back", adding that it appeared "very suspicious" and warranted investigation. 

Mercieca was in the headlines earlier this month after it emerged that he had left the prosecution team at the AG’s office and joined the defence of alleged Daphne Caruana Galizia murder conspirator Yorgen Fenech.

The move prompted outrage from the Caruana Galizia family and is now the subject of an inquiry being led by Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Azzopardi that is looking into whether Mercieca’s move compromised the AG’s case on the murder.

In Parliament on Tuesday, Azzopardi said that during the fisheries fraud case, Mercieca had not insisted on a jail term for the official involved.  

And, while Mercieca had been obliged to inform his superiors at the Attorney General’s office beforehand, he failed to do so.

This appeared to be a "judicial scandal" as it pointed to the likelihood that Mercieca had struck a deal with the fisheries official, he claimed.

The Opposition MP was speaking during a debate on proposed constitutional reform.  

Lawyer had dinners at judge's home

Azzopardi went on to say that Mercieca was a close personal friend of the son of Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera who had presided over the fisheries abuse case. Mercieca would frequently have dinner at the judge’s home, Azzopardi said.  

He said it was far more suspicious that Mercieca had been engaged in talks with the Fisheries Department to become its legal consultant, while he was prosecuting a senior official there.  

Azzopardi also said he was informed that Mercieca had been among the three rejected nominees put by Malta to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. 

On Monday, Times of Malta reported that Malta was delaying the operational set-up of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office after it failed to nominate three eligible candidates to sit on its College of Prosecutors.

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