The Malta Independent 26 May 2024, Sunday
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Leisure Clothing directors claim double jeopardy in new Constitutional case

Friday, 19 April 2024, 14:30 Last update: about 2 months ago

The directors of Leisure Clothing, who were sentenced to a jail term for human trafficking in 2023, have reauested that sentence is declared null on double jeopardy grounds because of a €500 fine they paid for breaching employment law years before, an offence which they said, had also featured in their human trafficking case.

Han Bin and Jai Liu were respectively the managing director and marketing director of Leisure Clothing, the Chinese-owned textile manufacturer that had been shut down in 2017 after their arrest.

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Although initially acquitted, they had eventually been convicted of trafficking and exploiting Vietnamese and Chinese employees at the Bulebel-based factory, following an appeal filed by the Attorney General. 

In a decision delivered in January 2023, the Court of Appeal had found Han and Jia guilty of forcing their employees to work long days with few to no breaks, in illegal working conditions. They were both handed six-year jail terms and fined €200,000.

In an application filed before the First Hall of the Civil Court in its constitutional jurisdiction in March 2023, Han, Jia and the company had claimed to have suffered a breach of their fundamental human rights, arguing that as their acquittal had been overturned on appeal, the court had not heard evidence or witnesses.  

But the following month, that case had been withdrawn because - the plaintiffs’ lawyers claim - one of the case files relating to other proceedings on similar merits, had apparently gone missing. 

Twelve months later, lawyers for the convicted pair have once again filed an application to the First Hall of the Civil Court, in its Constitutional jurisdiction. This time, the applicants are claiming that in a DIER case over breaches of employment law in 2016, they had been condemned to pay €500 in fines between them. 

Both cases had been filed against the same individual, during the same timeframe, had been based on the same facts and included a charge of having breached employment law, the court application says.

This, the lawyers argued, means that the double jeopardy rule - a legal protection against being tried twice for the same offence - applies, asking the court to declare that this constituted a breach of their fundamental rights and to declare the appeal judgement null.

Lawyers Jose Herrera, David Camilleri, Therese Comodini Cachia, Pio Valletta and Jason Azzopardi signed the application.

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