07 AUGUST 2002

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Judiciary scandal blow for business and investment

The judiciary scandal sweeping over the islands is not only affecting popular confidence in Malta’s courts of law, but, as is generally the case in such matters, the trickle-down, trans-boundary effect is also expected to take its toll on confidence in many spheres of life.

And in the business sphere in particular, confidence is a fickle friend – especially in a segment of society that is already suffering damaged confidence levels in the aftermath of 11 September and the ensuing threats of recession.

Although there was a mixed feeling over the judiciary controversy, a number of members of the business community are worried about the situation’s potential impact on the economy.

While the GRTU and the Federation of Industries believe the controversy is not a good omen for business the Malta Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, feels that the business community will not suffer in any way.

The Malta Financial and Business Times asked if the controversy would have any bearing on commerce activities and business sentiment in Malta.

GRTU Director General Vince Farrugia said that the GRTU has already had questions from foreign personalities, including one potential investor, regarding the situation in Malta.
"Too many things are happening in Malta and this will not have a very good effect. We have had problems practically every year, starting off with the Brigadier, then the Police Commissioner, the Head of the Secret Service and now this. I believe that we have many hard working people in this country but what is happening is ruining our image.

"The impact is rebounding on everything. I don't know if we are tackling the issues in a good manner and I don't know if we are really trying to solve the problems. Everyone needs to sit down and start moving forward and see why this is happening."

The same question was asked to FOI Secretary General Edwin

Calleja, who said that the controversy would not go down well with foreign and even Maltese investors. He comments, "The good name Malta had with investors in the past has been somewhat diminished recently with this judiciary farce. Maltese and foreign investors, who believed in the judiciary process in Malta, will now think twice. If such things continue to happen, we would be easily labelled as a third world country where corruption is the order the day.

"We want people who want to invest their money in our country and such things won't help this happen. If this were a one-off then we might save ourselves, so we have to be on our toes because we can't take anymore risks," Mr Calleja said.

He adds that, thankfully, the FOI has not received any investor queries relating to the case but if these matters persist, Malta could be in trouble.

The same question was asked to Reginald Fava, President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, who said that the Chamber does not believe that this latest controversy surrounding a section of the judiciary will affect business and commerce in any particular way. While reverberating the same sentiments of astonishment and disbelief that are currently being felt across the country, the local business community is expected to continue in its functions in an entirely normal manner, he explains.

Speaking to a Birkirkara lawyer yesterday on condition of anonymity, The Malta Financial and Business Times was told that he is already experiencing a lack of trust from people vis-à-vis the courts. "But this is wrong," he said, "I compare something like this with a football team. If there's one player who is corrupt than that does not mean that the whole football team is corrupt.

"There are 27 judges and Magistrates, and that does not mean that all of them are corrupt. The law courts are still the best place were cases are to solved because no one can take justice by his own hands," he commented.

Police investigations into the case are continuing. In court on Monday, Police Commissioner John Rizzo said an individual had offered a gift to Chief Justice Arrigo, which he had refused, but then a second person had made an offer which the chief justice had, instead, accepted. However, Mr Rizzo did not reveal plans of possible additional arraignments.


Copyright © Network Publications Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07, Malta
Tel: (356) 21382741-3, 21382745-6 | Fax: (356) 21385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt