Panama Papers: AG renounces right to cross-examine Simon Busuttil

Panama Papers: AG renounces right to cross-examine Simon Busuttil

No further evidence produced by respondents

The Attorney General has renounced his right to cross-examine former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil in the ongoing Constitutional case filed by the latter in the wake of the Panama Appeals saga.

Dr Busuttil has been facing a legal struggle, since June last year, to ensure that a magisterial decision, giving the green light to an inquiry into alleged breaches of money-laundering laws by several high-profile Maltese figures, would take effect.

Read: Partial victory for Simon Busuttil as Panama Appeals saga continues

The whole saga had started off in July 2016 when the then PN leader had called upon a Magistrates’ Court to launch an investigation into the revelations emerging from the Panama Papers involving the Prime Minister, his chief of staff and other high profile figures.

Magistrate Ian Farrugia, presiding over the case, had decreed that the prerequisites for an inquiry had been met, thereby giving the go-ahead for the magisterial inquiry intended to establish whether money-laundering laws had been breached by the said individuals when opening offshore companies in Panama.

However, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, together with businessmen Brian Tonna, Karl Cini, Malcolm Scerri and Adrian Hillman, had subsequently filed separate appeals calling for the revocation of Magistrate Farrugia’s decree.

The appeals were assigned to Mr Justice Antonio Mizzi, prompting a challenge by the former leader of the Opposition on grounds that the Judge’s wife, Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi, had expressed her views on the Panama Papers scandal.

Following the Judge’s refusal to accept the challenge, Dr Busuttil had filed a Constitutional case claiming a violation of his right to a fair hearing and requesting that the appeals be assigned to a different member of the judiciary.

The continuation of this case was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon when lawyers for the respondents were meant to draw the curtain on the evidence stage by cross-examining the applicant and bringing forward other witnesses to testify.

Yet when the sitting got underway, Dr Victoria Buttigieg informed the Court that the Attorney General had no intention of cross-examining Dr Busuttil, nor of bringing forward further evidence.

The other lawyers, appearing as counsel to the other respondents joined in the suit, likewise declared that they had no further evidence to produce.

In light of these declarations, Mr Justice Joseph Zammit McKeon adjourned the case to July for final oral submissions preceding judgment.

Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is counsel to Dr Busuttil.