Former AG says advice to “go slow” on the Panama papers was misinterpreted

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Former Attorney General Peter Grech today faced the public inquiry board.

Grech had submitted his resignation, with his controversial tenure came to an end on the 9th of September, exactly 10 years after he was sworn in.

The family of Daphne Caruana Galizia had called for his removal in the wake of her assassination.

11:59 That is it for today. Thank you for following this blog.
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11:59 Dr Peter Grech's testimony ends here.
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11:57 Dr Comodini Cachia asks Dr Grech if he had discussed his resignation with Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis and with Prime Minister Robert Abela.

The board said this is not a relevant question.

Dr Grech said that he wrote a letter of resignation where he explained his position and why is was resigning.
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11:49 Dr Grech says that he never had head to head meetings with Electrogas directors but when bankers were present, Yorgen Fenech used to be present as well.

Dr Victoria Buttigieg, Alfred Camilleri from the Finance Ministry, Catherine Halpin and Yorgen Fenech from Electrogas used to be present, says Dr Grech.
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11:47 Dr Comodini Cachia then quotes from an e-mail addressed to Yorgen Fenech where he says that the government is prolonging the process.

The email says: "Have you had a chance to discuss with the respective people within the government of Malta?"

"Marcus I am working on it, I am confident it will be solved today," Yorgen replies.
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11:44 Dr Grech says that it was up to the Police to proceed against John Dalli or not.

Dr Comodini Cachia asks if it was him who wrote the law regarding the IIP. The board says it isn't that relevant.

Then she asks if he had meetings with Electrogas directors.
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11:40 Dr Comodini Cachia asks the witness if he was involved in the decision by Zammit not to take action.

The former AG says that when he spoke on this matter, opinions might have varied.
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11:37 Dr Comodini Cachia said that ex-Police Commissioner John Rizzo said during his testimony before the public inquiry board that together with the AG they decided what actions to take against John Dalli.

Ex-Police Commissioner Peter Paul Zammit then decided that actions were not to be taken.
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11:35 Dr Comodini Cachia draws attention to the words used in the e-mail' subject: Government Deal.

She then asks him regarding the issue that involved the Lands Authority but Dr Grech does not remember. He says that there were a number of controversies around the Electrogas deal.
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11:31 The inquiry board asks if there was interference when it came to giving his advice.
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11:27 Steven Jorgenson was corresponding with Ron Galea Cavallazzi from Camilleri Preziosi.
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11:26 Dr Comodini Cachia reads from the e-mail: "Attached please find an updated opinion from the Attorney General."

Dr Grech says that things need to be done according to law and that it is normal that the AG's advice is vetted.
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11:24 Dr Comodini Cachia is now referring to an email where Ronald Mizzi is copied – he was the permanent secretary within Konrad Mizzi's Ministry. She asks what was his role.

Dr Grech says that it was not him who copied him in the email but understands that the Ministry had to be included in the e-mails.
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11:23 Dr Comodini Cachia is now referring to certain e-mails.

She mentions lawyers and to whom were they giving advice. Dr Peter Grech said he is not sure.
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11:22 The other company which was representing the government was Camilleri Preziosi.
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11:21 "Given that the deal was complex and involved a lot of companies and banks, the government appointed a number of lawyers from the private sector," – Dr Grech
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11:20 He explains that the AG's office was acting as the Finance Ministry's lawyer.
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11:18 They are now discussing Silvio Valletta's role in the investigations into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Dr Comodini Cachia also asks that when testimonies were given on the Electrogas deal, it was said that they depended on the AG's advice. Dr Comodini Cachia asks to whom was Dr Grech giving the advice in this case?
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11:17 This advice in writing had to be presented to the board of inquiry by the Accountancy board, but till now it has not been presented.
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11:15 They are now referring to the advice the AG gave to the Accountancy Board – according to the testimonies during the public inquiry – The board did not act upon Brian Tonna and Nexia BT based on the AG's advice – to wait until criminal proceedings are over.
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11:15 "I never refused to give anyone advice" – Dr Peter Grech
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11:14 "So isn't it strange that the Police asked for your advice on Nexia BTs servers?" – Comodini Cachia
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11:13 The former AG says no.
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11:13 Dr Comodini Cachia asks him if he ever discussed FIAU reports with Silvio Valletta.
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11:12 He says he know Silvio Valletta through work.
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11:12 He adds that this was more in the form of a conversation rather than advice.
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11:12 Says that he was never informed on what was going on at Pilatus Bank.
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11:10 Dr Grech says that Valletta had told him they intend to open a magisterial inquiry but Dr Grech did not agree as in hand they only had a blog.
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11:08 Dr Comodini Cachia says that ex-Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar said during the Public Inquiry that he was ready to send Police Officers to search Pilatus Bank and that Silvio Valletta told him that the AG told him that all they have in hand is a blog so there is not enough evidence to raid the bank.
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11:06 He says that his meetings with the then PM were few as he used to meet with the Justice Minister more frequently.
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11:05 Dr Grech says that he is not sure if this issue is related to state secrecy matters.

"It s either a yes or a no, right?" says Madame Justice Lofaro.
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11:04 The bord asks if ex-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had asked for his advice.
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11:02 "So since the circumstances changed why didn't you tell them to proceed" – Madame Justice Lofaro.

Dr Grech repeats that his advice was flexible.

"You are not answering my question" – Madame Justice Lofaro.
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11:02 The AG says that his advice was flexible.
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11:01 Madame Justice Lofaro again asks why his advice did not change even when the situation got worse.
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11:00 She also tells him that his first obligation as an Attorney General is towards the citizens and the nation's interest.
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10:59 Dr Comodini Cachia reminds the witness that he had clients mentioned in the Panama Papers since Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri formed part of the government and since the Police had the faculty to ask for his advice.
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10:58 "The Panama Papers never reached the AG's Office" – Dr Grech.
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10:55 Regarding the seizure of Nexia BT's servers "I did not tell them you cannot seize them, but to understand that the action is intrusive. I do not recall a case of an accountancy firm accused of money laundering," said Dr Grech.

Dr Grech says that the local scenario needs to be considered in this matter but the board disagrees and says that he needs to see what actions other countries took.

The board says that it was Malta that did not act upon it.
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10:53 Dr Grech says that the argument being made is that if everyone was brought to justice and behind bars then the murder would not have happened.

"No, no, no, no" says the board.
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10:51 The former AG says that "When you give advice you trust the person came in good faith. You do not expect that the responsibility is shouldered by the lawyer. The advice remains advice as it has no value. You cannot ask for advice to hide behind it."
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10:50 Dr Grech said that the investigations are in the hands of the Police, not the AG.
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10:48 The board asks if he had communicated with the Minister on such circumstances, The former AG says he did not.

The board says that this is inexplicable.
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10:48 The board says it wants to focus the questions on the Panama Papers.
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10:46 He says he does not remember if he saw files on the investigations before he gave the advice.
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10:46 Dr Comodini Cachia asks the witness if the had considered all that was revealed through the Panama Papers when he gave his advice.
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10:45 Madame Justice insists on what could have been found if Nexia BT s servers were seized.
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10:35 On the 22nd of April Nexia BT replied to FIAU saying that it has no further documents as all deals with its clients were verbally agreed, says Dr Grech.
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10:34 Dr Grech says that on the 2nd of March 2016, l-FIAU requested a document from Nexia BT.

On the 10th of March another request was made.

The FIAU was suspecting that there were other documents, says Grech.

He says that he is saying this through he leaked reports.
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10:33 Madame Justice Lofaro said that time passed between the Egrant inquiry report and the revelations on 17 Black.
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10:32 Dr Grech says that it is important that the inquiry board reviews the Egrant report as it might give a different perspective.

He again says that back in May 16th 2016 he did not have a clear picture of the situation.
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10:31 Madame Justice Lofaro asks "the advice was not reviewed according to the circumstances?"
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10:30 He does not recall the Police seeking his advice again on this matter.
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10:29 The advice was strictly legal and that he believes it was not up to him to conduct the investigation said Dr Grech.
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10:28 He recalls one meeting with the Police.

Madame Justice Lofaro tells him that the Police informed them there were other meetings.
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10:27 Madame Justice warns Dr Grech " They came to you to guide them. Didn't you ask them, the Police, what information they had, you are their lawyer?"
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10:26 Dr Grech says that he says the conclusions of the report mentioned but says it is not his competence to scrutinise the FIAU report.
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10:26 Reference is made to the report mentioned in the AG's advice.
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10:25 The former AG says he does not know what information the Police had.
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10:23 Madame Justice Lofaro indicated that Dr Grech used the term " reasonable suspicion" to refer to FIAU and asks him what is the difference.

She also asks him if the servers could have been seized for a week to be analyzed and for Nexia BT not to shut down as a consequence.
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10:23 Dr Peter Caruana Galizia has just entered the courtroom.
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10:22 "If there is reasonable suspicion, one cannot exclude such a measure but since this was a drastic measure there needed to be enough evidence" – Dr Grech.
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10:21 "To go to an accountancy firm and seize its servers is obviously an intrusive measure," said Grech.
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10:20 Dr Grech says that that particular advice has been spun in such a way that harmed him.
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10:17 Dr Grech says that that advice was provided in relation to a particular court appeal related to the seizure of Nexia BT's servers.
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10:16 The questions will focus on the advice he gave when he was AG.
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10:15 Dr Comodini Cachia said that Dr Grech should be asked the questions and then says what answers he can give and what he cannot.
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10:15 Madame Justice Lofoaro " Now do not blame us, saying that we are prolonging the process."
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10:14 The lawyer representing Dr Grech said that his client was not asked for such a request.
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10:13 Madame Justice Lofaro agrees with Dr Comodini Cachia.
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10:11 Dr Comodini Cachia said that the witness had to inform the court today if he asked the Prime Minister to exempt him from professional secrecy and asks Dr Grech if he did so?
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10:10 Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino reminds Dr Peter Grech that the inquiry board has been given all the privileges by the Prime Minister to investigate.
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10:09 Dr Grech says he ha no problem with disclosing information however he needs the permission of his clients.
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10:09 The board says he is being given the opportunity to clarify his position.
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10:06 "Do you realize that with that advice the Police did not act? A year passed since some form of action was taken following that advice and until then Nexia BT's servers might have tampered with" said the board.
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10:05 Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino reads the advice, Dr Grech, as Attorney General gave on the 16th of May 2016 regarding Nexia BT's servers, when he said if the servers are seized it would be "highly intrusive."
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10:03 The board clarifies there will be no such questions.
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10:01 A legal representative for Dr Grech says that his client cannot answer questions on advice he gave to the government when he was AG.
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10:01 Dr Grech says that he wished to testify behind closed doors.
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10:00 Dr Comodini Cachia says that the witness should provide the inquiry board with the information on when the FIAU started investigating Keith Schembri and Adrian Hillman.
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09:59 Dr Comodini Cachia says she does not think that the matter is a state secret as all the information is already in the public domain.
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09:57 Dr Grech says that he is not sure if by mentioning the individuals the FIAU investigates he would be breaching the secrecy related to the cases. Dr Comodini Cachia disapproves of his statement.
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09:56 The board says that it is crucial for them to know if the FIAU was investigating certain individuals.
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09:56 The FIAU was headed by Manfred Galdes and now by Kenneth Farrugia.
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09:55 He says that these recommendations were cosmetic as the board, in reality, is not involved in the FIAU's work.
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09:54 The office of the AG no longer participates on the FIAU board due to amendments in place upon the Venice Commission's recommendations, said Dr Grech.
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09:52 Dr Grech explains that the FIAU does its investigations and if there are enough evidence and suspicion the report is passed on to the Police.

He says that sometimes the report ends up at the AG's office and that would pose a problem at the AG is part of the FIAU.
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09:50 He explains that the FIAU board is appointed by the AG, the Governor of the Central Bank, MFSA Chairman and the Police Commissioner who submit nominations to the Finance Minister.

He also says that the FIAU Chairman and Deputy Chairman are appointed by the Prime Minister.
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09:49 He says that he was not aware of the investigations the FIAU worked on.
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09:48 Grech says his predecessor was Silvio Camilleri who was the FIAU Chairman.
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09:44 The inquiry board starts asking Dr Grech Questions.
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09:43 Dr Comodini Cachia says that these are tactics used to intimidate the individuals who are assisting the inquiry board.
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09:41 Dr Therese Comodini Cachia says that the Parte Civile has its reply to the Yorgen Fenech's appeal asking for his name to be removed from the Public Inquiry's testimonies.
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09:39 Dr Peter Grech takes the witness stand.
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09:32 Former AG Peter Grech is present inside courtroom 20.
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09:30 The family of Daphne Caruana Galizia had called for Peter Grech's removal in the wake of her assassination.
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09:29 There has been no shortage of requests for Grech to resign or be removed, particularly over his handling of corruption allegations, including those involving Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.
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09:27 Attorney General Peter Grech submitted his resignation, exactly 10 years after he was sworn in.

Grech had joined the Office of the Attorney General in 1983 and had become Deputy Attorney General in 2005.

He was appointed to the top post as a replacement for Silvio Camilleri, who had been sworn in as Chief Justice.
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09:27 The public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is chaired by Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia and composed of Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino and Madame Justice Abigail Lofaro.
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09:26 This morning the former Attorney General Peter Grech is expected to give his testimony before the inquiry board.
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09:26 Good morning and welcome to this live blog.
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