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Constitutional court revokes businessman's bail until final decision on extradition to Lithuania

Angelo Frank Spiteri, the director of a Lithuanian-registered travel company, is wanted in Lithuania to face fraud charges along with two other men

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
10 January 2017, 5:26pm
The Constitutional Court has revoked a decree granting bail to Angelo Frank Spiteri, pending the conclusion of his extradition proceedings.
Spiteri, the director of a Lithuanian-registered travel company is wanted in Lithuania to face fraud charges, along with two other men, for allegedly setting up “Atostogu sandèlis” (loosely translated as "Holiday Warehouse") in Vilnius. The company would routinely convince its victims to sign accommodation agreements with certain hotels, however after receiving payment, the service would not be provided.

Spiteri has been fighting his extradition and his possible committal to the fearsome Lithuanian prison system, ever since he was arrested in December 2015 on the strength of a European Arrest Warrant. Upon his arraignment, Spiteri had been granted bail, but this was automatically revoked as soon as the court of Magistrates upheld the extradition request in January. Persons who have been adjudged as being extraditable by the court of Magistrates, are precluded from being granted bail under the Extradition Act.

Last May, Spiteri's lawyers Jason Azzopardi, Kris Busietta and Eve Borg Costanzi had filed Constitutional proceedings demanding both his immediate release on bail and compensation for the deprivation of his liberty.

In a provisional decision, temporarily upholding the request for bail, the First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction, had made a distinction between the facts of this case and other high profile extraditions, pointing out that Spiteri had not yet been found guilty in any jurisdiction. The judge had said that the court  “... is of the opinion that in this case, no reason to deprive the applicant from enjoying a right granted to persons accused in Malta, whilst criminal proceedings against them are pending.”

The Attorney General had filed an appeal to this, however, arguing that the court lacked the authority to order the provisional measure and that the circumstances did not justify the granting of bail.

In a judgement handed down yesterday, the Constitutional Court presided by Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri, Judge Giannino Caruana Demajo and judge Noel Cuschieri upheld the appeal and overturned the decision to release Spiteri from arrest. While it rebutted the AG's argument regarding the authority of the first court, the Constitutional Court said that interim measures such as the order to release Spiteri, could only be taken in “extremely urgent” cases, where irreparable harm to the party's vital interests was probable if nothing was done.

The detention of the accused had been carried out in good faith, due to the request for his extradition from another country, which was being processed. It was also clear that the extradition proceedings had been dealt with expeditiously and that there had not been any unreasonable delays. Spiteri had not complained of inappropriate conditions of detention.

“Therefore no circumstances that render the request an urgent one exist,” noted the court, upholding the AG's appeal and revoking the impugned decree.

The extradition case was remitted to the court of Magistrates, where it will continue being heard.

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...