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MaltaToday 27 July 2022 MIDWEEK

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2 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 27 JULY 2022 2 NEWS Opposition to once again push anti- corruption Bills when Parliament reopens LUKE VELLA THE Opposition will once again push its package of anti-corruption Bills in Parlia- ment, when it reopens in October. In a press conference on Tuesday, PN leader Bernard Grech, and MPs Karol Aq- uilina and Robert Cutajar slammed the government for failing to implement the inquiry recommendations. The PN had unveiled a package of 11 legislative Bills to fight corruption and ma- fia-style crimes, in line with recommenda- tions made by the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry. The Bills included proposals limiting government's duties and actions during an election campaign, a special inquiring magistrate to focus only on corruption investigations, the creation of a crime of procuring political influence, obstruction of justice, and omission of duty by public officers, unexplained wealth orders, crea- tion of a crime for mafia association and organised crime as well as a Bill to include a declaration in favour of journalism, to be enshrined in the Maltese Constitution. Grech said that a year ago, three judges had presented a report to the prime minis- ter, in which they put forward a number of recommendations to address the "climate of impunity that had taken over the coun- try". He recalled how the government MPs had all voted against the package bill in parliament, "ultimately voting against the conclusions of the judges." "Six months after this vote and almost a year of the publication of the public in- quiry, Robert Abela and his friends have done absolutely nothing to address this. They do not want to implement any of the judges' recommendations," Grech said. "This means that Robert Abela wants the Maltese to forget that the judges found him, Joseph Muscat and government guilty of creating a climate of impunity, that lead to the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia." "We have a duty to oversee the imple- mentation of the recommendations. If we forget, we would one day relive the same reality again," the PN leader said. Grech said that later on during the day, the Opposition would be presenting the bills, and will be asking government to con- cede the first Thursday after parliament's reopening, for the Bills to be discussed. "I invite Robert Abela and his friends, so that for once they vote in favour of the Maltese and the country," he said. No formal meeting with PM on public inquiry conclusions – Grech Questioned by the press, Grech said that he had no formal meeting with the Prime Minister on the conclusions of the pub- lic inquiry. He however disclosed that he had participated in a Security Committee meeting, where issues of national security were discussed. Grech stated that the out- comes of the meeting could not be shared, since they were issues of national security. MP Karol Aquilina spoke about the con- tents of the bills, emphasising that the Op- position had done its part to oversee the "much needed changes to the country's laws and Constitution". He recalled how it was former MP Jason Azzopardi who had worked on the pack- age of bills. Azzopardi no longer forms part of the PN parliamentary group, after failing to get elected in the 2022 election and has since then critiqued harshly the actions and strategies of the party and the Oppo- sition leader. PN MP Robert Cutajar said that the Op- position had the credibility, as it was con- sistent in its message, unlike the Prime Minister, who consistently failed to "move from words to actions." Cutajar said that PN had insisted in the House Business Committee, that the Op- position is allowed to bring forward mo- tions to parliament every four weeks and not every six months. "Up till today, we have received no offi- cial reply, even after sending a letter to the Deputy Prime Minister. We expect that on parliament's first Thursday, the bills are put on the agenda," he said. Cutajar said that a copy of the Bills will be presented to the Speaker of the House. MATTHEW AGIUS REPORTING restrictions have once again hampered news cov- erage of the case against the men accused of procuring the bomb used to assasinate jour- nalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017 and with carrying out the unrelated 2015 killing of lawyer Carmel Chircop. Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo presided over an after- noon sitting in the compilation of evidence against the tal-Mak- sar brothers Robert and Adrian Agius, George Degiorgio and Jamie Vella. As the sitting began, the court issued a decree, turning down Robert Agius' request to in- troduce evidence which had recently been given by Super- intendent Keith Arnaud in the separate proceedings over the murder of Daphne Carua- na Galizia. Agius' lawyers had previously asked the court to re-examine witnesses Superin- tendent Keith Arnaud and In- spector Wayne Camilleri, who had handled the investigation into the two Maksar brothers, as well as Vella and Degiorgio. The court's refusal was based on the grounds that the evi- dence requested was part of a magisterial inquiry which was still ongoing and was therefore subject to secrecy. The first witness summoned today was a notary who testified about inheritance-related is- sues, details of which, however, are subject to a court-imposed ban on publication. Homicide squad police in- spector Kurt Zahra took the stand after the notary, but his testimony was also made una- vailable to the public after the court upheld the AG's request that it hear the witness behind closed doors in order to avoid "possible tampering with evi- dence." Defence lawyer Alfred Abe- la objected, forcefully arguing that the prosecution had taken to making such requests when- ever the defence summoned a witness of its own. All of the witnesses that the prosecution wanted to summon had already given evidence in the magisteri- al inquiry, he said. "According to Arnaud, the only witnesses left to testify are telecommuni- cations companies, so what is the risk of tampering with evi- dence?" ""Because the inquiry is still open," prosecutor Francesco Refalo hit back, prompting an angry exchange with Abela, who questioned the fairness of the emerging use of the fact that in- quiries have not been conclud- ed to justify the suppression of news reporting on court cases. The case continued behind closed doors. Lawyers Alfred Abela, Rene Darmanin, Ishmael Psaila and William Cuschieri appeared for the accused. Lawyers Anthony Vella and Francesco Refalo represented the Office of the Attorney Gen- eral in the proceedings. Superintendent Keith Arnaud and Inspectors Shawn Pawney and Wayne Camilleri are pros- ecuting. Lawyers object to criminal proceedings against Caruana Galizia bomb-makers being held behind closed doors PN leader Bernard Grech (centre) with Karol Aquilina (left) and Robert Cutajar

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