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LIVE: Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat To Be Arraigned In Court

May 28 2024 Share

20:34 PM : The court has now adjourned the case to June 13 at 11am, with a second hearing on June 19 at 11am.

20:29 PM : The magistrate clarified that, in accordance with the law, the parties and their solicitors would be the only ones with access to the material. “The right administration of justice, not the disclosure of the evidence gathered during the investigation, is the public interest that must be safeguarded.” The parties and their solicitors were forbidden by the court from disclosing any records or proof from the case file.

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The court stated that it wants to make it clear that the criminal matter is being handled in court and not on social media in response to the request for a gag order. It was incorrect to interpret this in any way. It is forbidden for attorneys and defendants to publish, analyse, or closely examine any evidence or testimony that surfaced during court proceedings.

Until there is proof that any of the defendants are trying to use those tactics to obstruct or influence the proceedings, it denied the request for the order at this point.

The court said that although it would not forbid the defendants from flying overseas, it would sustain the demand that the defendants offer a sufficiently burdensome assurance to ensure that they show up for court. A personal guarantee of €25,000 was required of each defendant.

20:20 PM : The magistrate has reentered the courtroom and is to begin the final part of today’s hearing.

19:36 PM : To make a decision on the requests, the court is pausing the session for “maybe fifteen minutes.”

19:14 PM : Chris Spiteri’s lawyer revealed that “There is no reason for prevent Christopher Spiteri from speaking publicly about it. Three years of an inquiry which cost the nation €12 million. I cannot understand how a social media post by Spiteri could affect the case.”

18:44 PM : After the Attorney General criticizes Joseph Muscat’s, Konrad Mizzi’s and Chris Spiteri’s public statements on social media, Muscat’s lawyer Vincent Galea accused the AG of trying  to deprive the defendants of their right to freedom of expression and muzzle them.

18:40 PM : After Scerri leaves the witness stand,  the prosecution requests that the defendants be required to obtain permission from the court before travelling abroad in order to ensure that they will not unlawfully interfere with the proper administration of justice in those proceedings. This request is made in accordance with an article of the Criminal Code that grants the court the authority to impose conditions on defendants who are not in custody.

“In view of certain public statements and comments which did not do any good to the criminal process, which are better suited to a TV or Netflix series, in order to avoid this case becoming a trial by the media, while it is acceptable that the media do their job… in order to ensure the case continue properly, the defendants be prohibited from speaking to the media while this case is still ongoing.”

18:15 PM :Attorney Galea questions Scerri about the search conducted at Muscat’s residence in 2021.

“Did you tell your subalterns beforehand?”

“Normally, they would only be shown one day in advance. We delayed Muscat’s search until the following day after conducting two further searches beforehand.”

“Why?”

“We decided to postpone by one day due to a leak that appeared in the media.” We almost switched the dates.”

“Have you looked at the leak? Was the magistrate not inquiring into that? Although Supt. James Grech and Alexandra Mamo were notified, I was not personally involved.”

“When the media reported on the leak, what did the magistrate tell you? Nothing at all? Was she silent on this?

The attorney for the AG steps in and asks, “What is the purpose of these questions?

“It’s for the validity of the inquiry when we come to it,” adds Galea.E

According to Scerri, the magistrate remained silent. Police looked for a specific document that Muscat personally turned over.

It was handed to the professionals in attendance. The paper was taken by police, who then sealed it and turned it over to the experts.”

“What was that document?”

“As far as I know it was a contract of work.”

17:31 PM : Anthony Scerri, a former police inspector, next took the witness stand.

About two years in, the probe was well underway when he began helping the inquiring magistrate.

He had been with Stivala when they searched the offices of Nexia BT. Additionally, he had helped with a search at the Xghajra residence of Pierre Sladden, where several mobile devices were found.

17:20 PM : Next up was Superintendent Rennie Stivala of the Asset Recovery Bureau’s economic crimes unit. He claimed that during police raids in 2020, devices were taken and court specialists were appointed.

Technoline was required by the police to provide a copy of every receipt that was given to VGH. Ivan Vassallo had been questioned by Stivala—not for the sake of questioning, but rather to get insight into the scope of Technoline’s activities.

Vassallo agreed to give up his diaries.

Arthur Azzopardi, Vassallo’s attorney, queries, “Did you ask Vassallo to testify before Magistrate Gabriella Vella?”

“Not at all. I presented all I had learned in the investigation.”

 

16:50 PM : The defence’s attempt to force the prosecution to distinguish between amounts when the accused is charged in a personal and vicarious capacity is denied by the magistrate.

In determining whether to grant the freezing order request, the court cannot distinguish between property that is subject to seizure and that which the accused either directly or indirectly obtains.

16:40 PM : Defence lawyer Giannella de Marco believes the court ought to make a distinction between corporate and personal accountability. The viewpoint is supported by other solicitors.

According to AG’s office Refalo, the prosecution was under no need to make a distinction between individuals and corporations. De Marco, however, is adamant that there should be a distinction made between vicarious and personal accountability.

According to attorney Charles Mercieca, Meli was accused of obtaining illegal benefits in connection with Steward.

“Is the court equipped with the means to differentiate between gains made by the firm and those made by the individual? The investigating magistrate did not even make that distinction, he claims.

16:09 PM : The court has rejected the motion set out by the group of defence lawyers to seek justification from the prosecutors over the amounts of the freezing of assets.

The magistrate issued her decree quickly. Essentially, though, it appears that she rejects the defense’s contention that the amounts to be frozen need to be established at this point. The Attorney General’s stipulated amount cannot be altered by the court. It would be prematurely expressing itself on the merits if it attempted to do so.

16:00 PM : The hearing is back in session find out about the magistrate’s decision when it comes to the freezing of assets.

14:50 PM : In order to address the remaining defence requests, the court is now going to temporarily suspend the hearing. This might be a lengthy session.

14:39 PM : As one attorney notes, the pages the prosecution has indicated are just the starting points at which the magistrate will specify the charges. “This is so that people can understand how weak and abusive this request is.”

Attorney Stephen Tonna Lowell concurred with Filletti’s motion, pointing out that the AG is only providing the portion of the process-verbal that isn’t evidence as evidence. Instead, Refalo is accused of conflating the proceeds of the crime with the amounts that were allegedly laundered in this particular section of the investigation.

14:25 PM : According to Refalo of the AG’s office, the verbal procession that was just given constitutes the evidence.

His response causes a few chuckles to spread throughout the defenders.

The prosecutor clarified: “These are the findings of the investigating magistrate. It’s sufficient even with the 1,200 pages provided to all lawyers, which I hope they have perused. The magistrate also provided an indication of the amounts that constituted the illicit proceeds in the final 100 pages of the conclusions.”

14:15 PM: Attorney Jason Grima claims that even as a suspect, auditor Chris Spiteri was never granted the right to legal representation. He was informed by the magistrate that “you don’t need to get a lawyer.”

Grima tells Magistrate Montebello that he was naturally shocked when, a few days later, the police raided his offices and took half of the boxes that were in front of him.

14:05 PM : Franklin Calleja, the Registrar of Criminal Courts, is the first witness. He verbally explains the investigation process that the NGO Repubblika started. In addition to some devices that are not part of the 78 boxes, there are other devices.

Filletti inquires as to Calleja’s view on the contents. He denies having done so.

He had provided testimony during some of the investigation, adding that the investigation and the computers were forwarded to the AG on April 25. On May 24, they returned to court from AG.

“Do you know what happened to those acts while at the AG office?”

“No.”

“So there’s a gap during which the court did not have control over those devices?”

“No.”

14:00 PM : Franco Debono requests an explanation under oath of this method from the prosecution. Sciacca Grill’s representative, Debono, is becoming agitated now, pointing out that his client is not mentioned in the inquiry report. “I demand that the prosecutor take an oath and disclose the source of this €20 million Sciacca Grill claim!”

13:54 PM : The magistrate turns to face the prosecution and queries what proof they can provide to support the decision to freeze. In response, Refalo says that the reasoning comes “from the 1,200 pages of the inquiry.”

The attorneys start to raise their arguments loudly. The magistrate now seems irritated and tells the attorneys not to interrupt one another.

13:40 PM : Various defence lawyers including Stefano Filletti, Arthur Azzopardi, Franco Debono and Jason Grima are all questioning the validity of the freezing orders imposed by the AG on their clients stating that the insane figures do not correlate with the findings of the Vitals Inquiry.

13:15 PM : Nexia BT officials Brian Tonna and Karl Cini also plead not guilty.

13:13 PM : All those who have been charged are being asked to enter pleas. Everyone seems to be entering a not guilty plea, as would be expected. Among them are the IT manager Clarence Conger Thompson, the accountants Jonathan Vella and Christopher Spiteri, the attorney David Meli, the supplier of medical equipment Ivan Vassallo, and his business associate Mario Victor Gatt.

Brian Bondin of Mtrace enters a not guilty plea and informs the court that he is a general manager. Adrian Hillman enters a not guilty plea and lists “university lecturer” as his occupation. Pierre Sladden, a businessman, is likewise according to him not guilty.

 

13:07  PM : Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat pleads absolutely not guilty to the charges stated by prosecutor Francesco Refalo before hand,  he says that he is self-employed, working as an advisor in economics and management. Mizzi and Schembri also plead not guilty and state that they currently work as a management consultant and a business owner

 

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13:00 PM : The prosecution has made enormous demands for an attachment and freeze order for every person charged: Twenty million each for Tonna and Cini, thirty million for Muscat, Mizzi, Schembri, Spiteri, Vella, Hillman, and Sladden, thirty million for Meli, eleven million for Vassallo, seven million for Gatt, twelve million for Bondin, and one million for Conger Thompson.

In the event that guilt is found, the prosecution also asked for partial or general prohibition.

12:31 AM : Prosecutor Francesco Refalo states that Joseph Muscat is charged with  “in his role as Prime Minister, having requested, received or accepted for himself or on behalf of others gifts or promises or or offers of money, or promise thereof”, in return for giving the gifter an undue advantage. Similar charges are read out against Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri.

12:20 AM : The long list of charges against the accused are being read. All of these charges can be found in the leaked Vitals inquiry published by Malta Today

12:05 AM: Labour cult hero Manuel Cushcieri who organised today’s show of support for Muscat, has made an exit. He declined to answer any questions from journalists as he walked through Republic Street but also attracted many Labourite admirers who stopped to shake his hand.

11:50 AM : The AG begins with the criminal history of Joseph Muscat and the order pertaining to the money laundering inquiry. After that, Mizzi, Schembri, Conger Thompson, and Christopher Spiteri are included.

Every batch of documents is numbered and initialed by the magistrate. The following are: Brian Bondin, Adrian Hillman, Pierre Sladden, Brian Tonna, Karl Cini, Jonathan Vella, David Joseph Meli, Ivan Vassallo, Mario Victor Gatt, and Brian Bondin.

11:35 AM : The magistrate takes her seat. In front of the deputy’s bench are 78 boxes of evidence.

The magistrate begins taking attendance, reading out each accused’s name.

11:30 AM : The attention now shifts to the courtroom. Journalists are seated on one side, while the families of the accused are on the other. Magistrate Rachel Montebello cautions that no photos should be taken.

Vincent Galea and Charlon Gouder, two members of Muscat’s legal team, take their places.

The defense team comprises Stefano Filletti, Jason Grima, Arthur Azzopardi, Sean Zammit, Mark Vassallo, Edward Gatt, Marion Camilleri, Franco Debono, and Chris Cilia.

On the opposite side, representing the prosecution, are Attorney General lawyers Francesco Refalo, Rebekah Spiteri, Shelby Aquilina, and Anthony Vella, along with inspectors Hubert Cini and Wayne Rodney Borg.

 

11:00 AM : Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and wife Michelle Muscat have entered the Maltese courts hand in hand, getting prepared ahead of Joseph’s historical hearing.

10:50 AM: Former Minister of Energy and Health, Konrad Mizzi has just arrived in Valetta and has entered the Maltese courts to a very warm welcome by Labour supporters gathered outside of courts.

He also told several journalists that he is here to clear his name and that he never took money from the Maltese public.

 

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10:40 AM: Exactly outside of Hall 22, there is a mix of press, lawyers and accused including Keith Schembri, Brian Tonna and Karl Cini who can be seen mingling and chatting amongst themeselves.

10:29 AM : Tensions are rising outside of the Maltese courts, as clips have surfaced of Labour supporters heckling journalists whilst telling them why they gathered outside of court to support the former Prime Minister.

 

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10:10 AM : Joseph Muscat’s former Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri has arrived in Valletta and has entered court ahead of his and 13 other’s hearing.

 

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09:35 AM : Countless of Labour supporters have gathered outside of court, chanting traditional Labour chants ahead of Joseph Muscat’s, Keith Schmebri’s and Konrad Mizzi’s arrival.

 

 

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Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is set to be arraigned in court following the landmark Vitals inquiry, which was fully published by Malta Today a few days ago, that accused him of several crimes.

Muscat’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri and former Minister Konrad Mizzi will also be arraigned on the same day as Joseph Muscat whilst former Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne and Central Bank of Malta Governor Edward Scicluna set to appear in front of court on Wednesday.

The hearing is supposed to begin at 11:30 AM and is going to be heard at Hall 22, the largest courtroom. Family members of the accused and press will be present on the balcony above the court.

Stay tuned as Malta Daily will be at the hearing and will be providing live updates right here.

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Jake Speaks Out After Love Island Malta Elimination

Jake Speaks Out After Love Island Malta Elimination
May 28 2024 Share

Taking to social media, Jake Pace, who was eliminated from the villa during yesterday’s Love Island Malta Season 2 episode.

He revealed that he did not expect to enter Love Island but is very grateful for doing so, having learned a lot and made a lot of friends.

 

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He went on to encourage anyone who wants to go for something but is keeping back from doing so to go for it, pushing people to follow their gut as an entire experience will await them if they follow through.

Jake was eliminated along with Vanessa, after the favourite contestants were chosen to be Kyonne and Ylenia. The latter had to make the decision to eliminate a male contestant, choosing Jake to exit the villa.

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Iconic Għana Singer Żgej Speaks About He Started

Iconic Għana Singer Żgej Speaks About He Started
May 28 2024 Share

Speaking to Minister for National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government Owen Bonnici, a local għana singer Mikiel Cumbo l-Iżgej.

The singer from Żejtun explained to the Minister how he began to practice and excel at għana, a traditional Maltese folk music which is known for its rhythm, spontaneity and rhyme.

Żgej began to join a seasoned practitioner as he moved around Malta to perform as well as how the musical trade worked in a largely pre-digital age.

Even romantic mingling happened through għana for him, explaining how he used to sing to girls he liked through the traditional form of music.

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Official Music Video For Maxine Pace’s Song ‘Mhux Tal-Aħħar’

Official Music Video For Maxine Pace's Song 'Mhux Tal-Aħħar'
May 28 2024 Share

Maxine Pace has released the official music video for her Mużika Mużika winning song ‘Mħux tal-Aħħar.’

The song is a ballad through which Maxine reflects about the themes of grief and loss as a tribute to her late mother.

Her victory also made her the first woman to win the prestigious Mużika Mużika festival, securing 106 points to earn top spot.

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