Contact with CM and AG was ‘entirely proper’, Hassans lawyer tells McGrail...

Lewis Baglietto, KC, the Head of Litigation at Hassans, on Thursday told the McGrail Inquiry there was nothing inappropriate about his contact with the Chief Minister and the Attorney General while representing the firm’s senior partner, James Levy, KC, after police classed him as a suspect in Operation Delhi and sought to execute search warrants at his office and home on May 12, 2020.

Mr Baglietto said he had “serious misgivings” about the RGP’s approach to Mr Levy and that it was “entirely proper” he should have contacted anyone he thought necessary in preparing a challenge to the warrants.

“In my view, it is open to the legal representatives of a suspect to try and obtain as much information as they possibly can from whoever they think might be able to provide that information,” he said.

“And then it is up to that person, the holder of the information, to decide whether it is proper to share that information with those seeking it.”

Mr Baglietto represented Mr Levy after police sought to execute the search warrants, a development he described as “a bombshell” in evidence to the Inquiry on Thursday.

At the time, police viewed Mr Levy as a suspect in Operation Delhi, an investigation into the alleged hacking and sabotage of the National Security Centralised Intelligence System [NSCIS], and into an alleged conspiracy to defraud Bland, the private company that operates the system.

Hassans indirectly held a stake in 36 North, the company at the centre of Operation Delhi, and Mr McGrail’s lawyers have alleged that both Mr Levy and Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, as partners of the law firm, the latter on sabbatical, stood to gain financially from the alleged fraud.

Mr Baglietto, as a partner of the firm, also held a small stake in 36 North, though he said he was not involved in setting up the company and had only peripheral knowledge of the investment prior to May 12.

Much of the questioning focused on exchanges after May 12 between Mr Baglietto and both the Attorney General, Michael Llamas, KC, and Mr Picardo.

The Inquiry heard that the Chief Minister had shared with Mr Baglietto his anger at the police approach to Mr Levy and had referred to potential legal strategies to challenge the warrants, and to police disciplinary mechanisms and his loss of confidence in Mr McGrail.

Mr Baglietto said he had no recollection of the exact nature of those discussions and had not taken detailed notes at the time. Any notes he may have made had not been retained.

He said his priority had not been on the substance of Operation Delhi or the wider fallout, but on the procedural aspects of the police action against Mr Levy, which Hassans had considered challenging by judicial review until the RGP later accepted a different, voluntary approach to obtaining the evidence it was after. Mr Levy was never arrested or charged.

Mr Baglietto said he and his team had, from the outset, retained the services of a UK King’s Counsel with wide experience of similar situations and the case law around them, and that this lawyer had been involved in drafting all the correspondence sent by Hassans to the RGP and the Attorney General at the time.

“My instinct was to try and sort this out as soon as possible, by which I mean trying to rectify what seemed to us to be a gross injustice in terms of the way they had gone about obtaining the evidence,” Mr Baglietto said.

“Not in terms of interfering with the substantive investigation but rather the procedure that had been followed, which was unduly draconian and oppressive in my view.”

Mr Baglietto said police should have opted for a less intrusive production order, particularly given that Mr Levy, as a prominent officer of the court, would have likely held legally privileged information on his mobile device unrelated to 36 North.

Mr Baglietto acknowledged that after police visited Hassans on May 12, he had gone “straight to the top” and contacted the Attorney General.

“Why was your first action to phone and then email the Attorney General with this complaint rather than to contact the RGP directly?” asked Julian Santos, counsel to the Inquiry.

“Because we had serious misgivings as to the conduct – unfortunately I have to say this - within the RGP and my recourse was therefore to the Attorney General as the Crown’s most senior legal advisor, who was also the guardian of the public interest, one of the guardians of the rule of law and a person of total trust and confidence,” Mr Baglietto replied.

“Did you call him or contact him because he was your friend?” Mr Santos asked.

“I think I would have called the incumbent whoever he or she might have been,” Mr Baglietto said.

Mr Santos pressed him further: “What did you think of the propriety of your contact with the Attorney General?”

“Entirely proper and… my legal team, including the leading [UK] counsel, obviously had no issue with that and in fact the letter was drafted on that basis,” Mr Baglietto replied.

Mr Santos asked him what role he believed the Attorney General was playing in this context.

“I trusted him to exercise his own judgment and give his own opinion… as to what a measured and fair manner of proceeding would be as regards the obtention of the evidence,” Mr Baglietto said.

The Inquiry heard too that Mr Baglietto had contact with the Chief Minister, including at a meeting after May 12 in the Chief Minister’s home together with Mr Levy.

Mr Picardo and Mr Levy have told the Inquiry that meeting was centred on Mr Levy’s concern that his status as suspect should not impact Community Care, the charity he chaired. He had gone offering to resign, they both said.

Mr Baglietto, however, said he had no specific recollection of the meeting or what was discussed at the time.

But much as he did in respect of his contact with the Attorney General, he insisted repeatedly that he saw nothing wrong in his discussions with the Chief Minister, with whom he acknowledged he had a longstanding, close friendship, and that his focus was solely on procedural fairness.

“What did you think of the propriety of your contact with the Chief Minister?” Mr Santos asked.

“I didn't think it was improper at all,” Mr Baglietto said, adding it was for the office holders to know what their red lines were.

“I mean, the mindset at the time is that ‘we've got this bombshell’, as we perceived it anyway, which is the search warrant, which was a very serious intrusion into the private rights of Mr Levy, and indeed any individual, and courts have repeatedly referred to that in their judgements.”

“And my sole focus was to get to the bottom of how all this had come about.”

The Inquiry heard that among the exchanges with Mr Baglietto, the Chief Minister had suggested potential avenues that might be pursued to challenge the search warrants.

“Did you not consider it rather unique for the Chief Minister to be making proposals of potential legal applications to a suspect in a criminal investigation?” Mr Santos asked.

“Well, it might be unique, but it was a unique scenario and I knew the depths of feeling that he had about it,” Mr Baglietto replied.

Nick Cruz, the lawyer for the RGP, asked Mr Baglietto whether he had ever made similar contact with the Attorney General or the Chief Minister in respect of other cases prior to Operation Delhi.

“No,” he replied.

Asked by Sir Peter Caruana, KC, the lawyer for the Government parties, whether Mr Llamas or Mr Picardo had shown any reluctance to talk to him about his concerns around the May 12 warrants, Mr Baglietto replied: “None”.

But he added that “nothing” had been shared with him about the substance of the investigation.


During a tense exchange late in the session, Mr Baglietto expressed deep offence when asked by Adam Wagner, the lawyer for former police Commissioner Ian McGrail, why he deleted WhatsApp messages with the Chief Minister and the Attorney General which the Inquiry was told neither he nor Hassans had been able to recover for the Inquiry.

The Inquiry has heard that neither Mr Baglietto or Mr Levy have been able to provide WhatsApp messages from the relevant period and that Hassans’ IT specialists said they were impossible to retrieve.

Some of those communications were provided by other parties including the Chief Minister, but others are unavailable.

Mr Baglietto said he routinely deleted messages and that after police dropped the investigation into Mr Levy in October 2020, he no longer thought it necessary to retain the messages which, in any event, he said were not important given the extent of emailed and written correspondence that existed.

Checking his mobile phone during the session at Mr Wagner’s request, he confirmed the most recent WhatsApp exchanges with the Chief Minister that he still retained dated to January 2021.

Mr Wagner asked Mr Baglietto why, given Mr McGrail’s controversial retirement in June, 2020, and the subsequent announcement of a public inquiry in July that year, he had not thought it relevant to retain records of any mobile communications prior to that.

“I'm going to suggest to you that, knowing that the two things were connected, and also knowing around the time that the Chief Minister announced there was going to be a public inquiry, you then went on to delete all of your relevant messages with Mr Picardo,” Mr Wagner put it to him.

“Sorry, that is a deeply offensive and hurtful allegation to make against me,” Mr Baglietto said, adding: “I have to take great exception to that.”

“I would never have done that if I’d had the remotest inkling that those WhatsApps were in any way going to be relevant to this Inquiry, and indeed I was not asked to provide any evidence or communications or any input in relation to this Inquiry until now, nearly four years later.”

Mr Baglietto added there was “nothing that makes me uncomfortable” in his messages that had been recovered for the Inquiry by other participants.

Earlier in the day, the Inquiry heard from Sergeant Paul Clarke, who at the time was an investigator on Operation Delhi and had prepared the application for the search warrant.

Sgt Clarke told the Inquiry that police had opted for the search warrants instead of a production order over concerns evidence might otherwise be destroyed.

He said there were systems in place to “seize and sift” through mobile phone evidence to protect any unrelated information subject to legal privilege.

The then Stipendiary Magistrate, Charles Pitto, had approved the search warrants after a two-hour hearing during which he reviewed with police the RGP’s 38-page application, the Inquiry was told.

Sgt Clarke said the Stipendiary Magistrate did not ask any questions outside what had been laid out in the application.

The Inquiry continues.