Politicians and others involved in political corruption will no longer be able to invoke prescription when cases land in court.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and the Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, Owen Bonnici, said a Bill laying down the principle that such cases are not time-barred had cleared the committee stage in Parliament and is about to become law.
The Bill makes no mention of retroactivity, and Dr Muscat explained that the provisions of the criminal law will apply, as well as decisions by the court. However, he said, people who committed corruption in the past may now not sleep easy.
He also explained that the provisions of the Bill apply not only to MPs but also to Mayors, local councillors and all those who corrupt politicians or are in any way involved in political corruption.
When a case is taken to court, the government may seek to reclaim funds derived illegally.
Dr Muscat said the Whistleblower Act will be presented in the coming weeks, followed shortly after by a law on party financing.
Asked whether he was really raising the bar, considering the partisanship seen in board appointments and the fact that at least two ministers breached the code of ethics, Dr Muscat said this was a “caricature” of the situation.
He said the code of ethics was being obeyed except for Franco Mercieca who was given a special waiver due to his specialisations. Listing a number of PN-leaning people who had been appointed to boards – including former MP Frans Agius and former PN president Frank Portelli – Dr Muscat said a Government had never opened its arms so much to such varied talent.
He added that this removal of time-barring for corruption “solidly raised the bar for higher standards”.
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