The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

Judge gives partial ruling on de-flagging of fishing vessels

Wednesday, 29 May 2019, 14:20 Last update: about 3 months ago

Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti has dismissed arguments against suspected fuel smuggler Darren Debono in a partial judgment on the latter’s bid to halt the de-flagging of six of his fishing vessels.

Darren Debono is a shareholder in World Water Fisheries Ltd and is currently undergoing judicial proceedings in Sicily after being arrested in connection with a fuel smuggling and sanctions-busting operation.

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The Registrar General of Ships and Sailors and Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects had planned to strike off six vessels belonging to Debono’s company as a result of the news of his arrest in Sicily, but had been temporarily stopped after Debono’s lawyer Victor Bugeja had filed an injunction. Stateless vessels lose all their rights, including the EU fishing licence, noted the judge in that case, saying that the measure would be “draconian and premature,” in view of the fact that the criminal case against Debono was yet to be decided

Debono employed six persons on every fishing boat and their livelihoods were at stake, said Bugeja, appearing for World Water Fisheries Limited in the case it filed against the Registrar and the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects.

The judge noted that Debono had obtained a warrant of prohibitory injunction against the de-flagging of the vessels and had asked his court to confirm it to prevent irremediable damage to Debono and his crews on the six vessels.

The defendants had raised a number of pleas, all of which were, however, dismissed. Amongst their arguments, it was submitted that there was no administrative action to attack as there had been no order or directive amounting to an administrative action. 

The court, however, said the facts pointed in the opposite direction. The letter sent by the defendants informing the company that its ships were going to be de-registered within the month if the current situation persisted was simply an administrative decision suspended for a month, said the court.

The court is expected to give a final decision on the merits of the case in the coming weeks.

 

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