Magistrate Doreen Clarke has ordered that an inquiry into the Panama Papers scandal be carried out. The decision is understood to have been made following the separate requests made by the rule of law NGO Repubblika and former PN leader Simon Busuttil.
On its part, the government has stated that this is not a new inquiry and that it shall be up to the Magistrate to consider these “allegations”.
In a tweet announcing the news, Repubblika says that the action is a sign of ‘overruling objections by
#corruption will be collected and preserved. One Day justice will be done. We’ll see to it.’, the NGO said.
“A great overlap” in content
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat did not respond to Newsbook.com.mt when asked whether he will be asking for the resignation of Konrad Mizzi.
In a statement, the government stated that the Magistrate had said that “another inquiry should not be opened, but an additional note in the already-opened inquiry” should be made to “avoid double procedures”. According to the Government, Clarke said that there was “a great overlap” in content when compared to what is being investigated by Magistrate Charmaine Galea.
What did the Magistrate say?
In her ruling, Magistrate Clarke said that when receiving a report of an offense which could result in a penalty of more than three years in prison and the criminal act still exists, it can result in an inquiry. According to Clarke, it is usually the police who, after receiving a report, inform the magistrate and ask for an inquiry.
In a separate decision also issued today, Clarke dismissed Konrad Mizzi claim that his human rights were being violated by this request. She also said that an inquiry should begin “immediately on suspicion of an offense being committed”. She also said it wold be “very dangerous” if the process of preserving evidence had to be halted or not allowed to begin.
An inquiry into Panama Papers scandal has been ordered by Mag. Clarke after requests by #RepubblikaMT & separately by @SimonBusuttil , overruling objections by @KonradMizzi. Evidence of #corruption will be collected and preserved. One Day justice will be done. We’ll see to it.
— repubblika 🇲🇹 (@repubblikaMT) April 29, 2019
BREAKING: Magistrate Doreen Clarke has just accepted our request to order an inquiry into the #PanamaPapers corruption involving @KonradMizzi and @keithaschembri. This is one small step for #justice but one GIANT LEAP for #Malta.
— Simon Busuttil (@SimonBusuttil) April 29, 2019
This is how the Shadow Minister for the Environment Jason Azzopardi has responded.
From today a sitting Minister, our very own Tourism Minister, is the subject of a formal, criminal Magisterial Inquiry. A first. @repubblikaMT @SimonBusuttil @EPP @aditusNGO @BorgJake @mcaruanagalizia @b_obermayer
— Jason Azzopardi (@AzzopardiJason) April 29, 2019
Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi was previously named in the Panama Papers during a data leak of individuals from the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca back in April 2016.
Mizzi who was the then-Maltese Energy Minister who was revealed to have acquired an offshore Panamanian company called Hearnville Inc and the Orion Trust Limited in New Zealand.
Despite a previous attempt to open the investigation after the 2017 election, which also included the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri, the request was throughout following an appeal.
The current application for an inquiry was made in March.
The former PN leader and the rule of law NGO stated in their request that there had been consistent failings by Malta’s institutions to take Mizzi and Schembri to task on their connections to the Panama Papers since 2016.
The figures were alleged to have set up secretive Panamanian companies to launder money.
Mizzi and Schembri’s companies were also understood to have been connected to a Dubai-based company called 17Black, an entity whose owner turned out to be the businessman Yorgen Fenech.
In the 77-page document which Busuttil submitted to the court, he alleges that the companies were intended for money laundering and this could be supported by evidence found through a series of electronic and paper correspondence. These could be uncovered from computer servers in a number of offices in Malta.
Good always wins
After 3 years evading justice, today, Minister @KonradMizzi and the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff @keithaschembri are FINALLY the subject of a criminal inquiry investigating their corruption exposed in #PanamaPapers. pic.twitter.com/8zbdrTr6Ay
— Simon Busuttil (@SimonBusuttil) April 29, 2019
In a video published on the former PN Leader’s Twitter, Dr Busuttil appeals to the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to let justice run its course.
He also calls on the PM to ‘take political responsibility for obstructing justice for three whole years.’
He concludes saying that this decision, ‘shows the hope that good always wins.’
— David Casa (@DavidCasaMEP) April 29, 2019
— ECPMF (@ECPMF) April 29, 2019
Another conjecture. Inquiring Magistrate stated that there are huge overlaps in @SimonBusuttil's allegations and what is already being investigated by another Magistrate. Magistrate rejected his request for a new inquiry. People keep rejecting his failed politics. https://t.co/FkZX5RIhIw
— Kurt Farrugia (@KurtFarrugia) April 29, 2019