HomeShopping Minister claims ‘forum shopping’ after Repubblika sought magistrate’s removal from case

[WATCH] Minister claims ‘forum shopping’ after Repubblika sought magistrate’s removal from case


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Repubblika’s request to recuse a magistrate from hearing its case was dubbed ‘forum shopping’ by Justice Minister Jonathan Attard.

In an interview on TVM’s Xtra, Attard claimed that Repubblika’s request, which was accepted by the Constitutional Court, was a case of forum shopping.

He was interviewed alongside PN justice spokesperson Karol Aquilina.

Forum shopping refers to a practice where litigants try to seek particular magistrates whom they believe could deliver a favourable judgement.

Repubblika had filed challenge proceedings to compel the Police Commissioner and the Attorney General to file charges against Pilatus Bank officials who were earmarked for prosecution by a magisterial inquiry.

The challenge proceedings were presided over by Magistrate Nadine Lia with Repubblika asking that she recuse herself given her family link to lawyer Pawlu Lia, who was Joseph Muscat’s lawyer. Lia is her father-in-law.

Last month, Judge Ian Spiteri Bailey granted an interim measure to have the challenge proceedings assigned to another magistrate to ensure that justice is “not only done, but is seen to be done”.

Repubblika, through its lawyer Jason Azzopardi, alleged that Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg had issued what is known as a nolle prosequi – an order not prosecute – vis-à-vis the top brass at Pilatus Bank.

These include the bank’s owner Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, its operations supervisor Luis Rivera, the bank’s director Ghambari Hamidreza and bank official Mehmet Tasli.

MaltaToday had revealed that at least two former Pilatus Bank officials will not be prosecuted despite magistrate’s orders, possibly as part of a deal requiring them to testify against other high profile bank officials.

Attard and Aquilina tackled the issue of nolle prosequi during the interview. Aquilina criticised how such decisions not to prosecute are taken without explanation. He argued that an older procedure, when the Attorney General would send a report to the president on decisions nolle prosequi.

Now, he says, the Attorney General has full discretion in this regard.

Attard rebutted, saying that one needs to be careful of the legal repercussions when explaining certain decisions.  

He went on to criticize the Opposition and its close relationship to Repubblika. He went on to point out that a former Opposition MP was investigated by the Chamber of Advocates for trying to cast doubts over the impartiality of a sitting judge.

Attard was referring to Jason Azzopardi, who had revealed last year that judge Giovanni Grixti had bought a 50ft motor yacht from the father of murder suspect Yorgen Fenech back in 2008, when he was already a magistrate.

However, Azzopardi revealed this on the day that the judge had to decide on whether Fenech gets bail. Grixti rejected Fenech’s request for bail that day, but Azzopardi’s comments led Fenech’s lawyers to write to the Chief Justice, asking to deplore what they described as a “systematic intimidation of the judiciary in such a way as to threaten due process”.

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