Chief Justice Emeritus to lead inquiry into Mercieca’s crossing over

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Azzopardi will head an independent inquiry into the behaviour of junior lawyer, Charles Mercieca, who until very recently worked at the Office of the Attorney General – the state prosecutor, before resigning and joining the defence team of Daphne Caruana Galizia murder suspect Yorgen Fenech.

This was announced by the Justice Ministry on Tuesday. The inquiry was established according to Chapter 273 of the laws of Malta, the Inquiries Act.

In a brief statement, the ministry referred to reports concerning a lawyer who worked at the Attorney General’s Office before switching sides to join Fenech’s defence team who is facing criminal procedures in relation to the case.

The Chief Justice Emeritus was given until 16 June to conclude the inquiry.

The government did not publish any terms of reference for the inquiry.

Mercieca hit the headlines last week after he left his job as a lawyer at the Attorney General’s Office, only to appear for Fenech in court the next day as part of his legal defence team. Fenech is charged with complicity in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. After Mercieca’s cross over, the Caruana Galizia family filed a formal complaint.

On Monday, Special Rapporteur to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt, wrote a strong-worded letter to the Attorney General and called for an immediate investigation by the Maltese authorities before any irreversible harm is done to the case.

Omtzigt raised concerns on the sequence of events and warned of potential criminal liability. He also asked the Attorney General a number of specific questions related to Mercieca’s term at the office, asking among other things, whether it was possible for the junior lawyer to have accessed information related to Fenech case.

Reacting to the news, the Ministry of Justice had described the move as “insensitive”. The Ministry had said that Mercieca never worked directly or indirectly on the proceedings related to the assassination of Caruana Galizia, nor on any proceedings connected to Fenech. The Ministry did not specify, however, whether Mercieca was privy to case details.