The Malta Independent 11 August 2022, Thursday

Judge orders extradition proceedings against suspected Ndrangheta drug smuggler to start again

Tuesday, 2 August 2022, 12:43 Last update: about 9 days ago

The Court of Criminal Appeal has ruled that a failed extradition case against suspected drug smuggler John Spiteri, who is wanted by the Italian judicial authorities, must start again from scratch, sending the case back to the court of magistrates for a retrial.

The decision was handed down this morning by Mr. Justice Giovanni Grixti in an appeal filed by the Attorney General to last month’s decision to reject the extradition request on the grounds that the documentation filed by the prosecution was incomplete.

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Newly-filed documentation needed to be evaluated by the Court of Magistrates, the court said.

The Attorney General had filed the appeal after a court declined to uphold a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued against Spiteri, who is wanted for prosecution in Italy on organised crime and drug smuggling charges.

In December 2021, Italian police had issued a European Arrest Warrant for Spiteri, a Maltese citizen, after a four-year investigation into a drug trafficking ring, which culminated in raids on several properties in Italy.

Some 430kg of cannabis, cannabis resin and cocaine were reportedly seized by the Italian Guardia di Finanza during the raids which largely targeted individuals from known mafia families.

But the proceedings had been declared null in June, after Spiteri’s lawyers, Lawyers Franco Debono, Charles Mercieca and Francesca Zarb, had successfully attacked the validity of the Schengen Information System (SIS) alert attached to the EAW.

The AG had subsequently filed an appeal, arguing that the Court of Magistrates had failed to follow the procedure laid down in the Extradition (Designated Foreign Countries) Order and had “decided to hear the proceedings in a manner contrary to the spirit of the same law that regulates proceedings triggered by an EAW.”

In the appeal application, the Attorney General contended that the magistrate had gone beyond the applicable legal requirements and reached a conclusion, which included the release of the extraditee which, the AG argued, found no comfort in the applicable law.

Having seen the acts of the case, as well as having taken note of the circumstances of the case, the judge ordered that the case be sent back to the court of magistrates to decide the case anew in the light of the newly-exhibited documentation.

Lawyers Franco Debono, Charles Mercieca and Francesca Zarb are representing Spiteri.

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