Human trafficker wanted in Hungary loses extradition appeal

Man facing extradition to Hungary to face charges of trafficking 8,000 people has lost his appeal against the decision of the Court of Magistrates

A Syrian man facing extradition to Hungary to face human trafficking charges has lost an appeal against the decision to extradite him.

Loiai Aljelda, 48, was arrested at his workplace in May after anti-terrorism police investigated an alert on the Schengen Information System. A European Arrest Warrant had been issued for the man in December 2019.

He is wanted to face prosecution for allegedly running a Chechen human trafficking gang and involvement in illegal immigration and residence permit offences. Some 8,000 persons, including Afghans, Moroccans, Palestinians, Syrians and Somalis, are thought to have been trafficked by the gang, but Austrian prosecutors want the man to face charges of smuggling 50 individuals.

The police said the man had previously been arrested in Austria over related charges and had been sentenced to three years in prison.

Aljelda’s extradition to Hungary had been approved by the Court of Magistrates last month, but he had filed an appeal.

His defence counsel had argued, amongst other things, that the man was being extradited for the same acts that he had previously been convicted of.

The Court of Magistrates had concluded that it found no evidence to conclude that these were indeed the “same acts” when it compared the factual details for which the person was convicted and sentenced by the Criminal Court of Vienna.

Handing down judgment in the appeal, Mr Justice Aaron Bugeja noted that the crimes were very similar, in that the circumstances of person accused, timeframes, geographical areas and places, criminal offence and modus operandi for the commission of the crime mentioned in the judgment of the Criminal Court of Vienna and the EAW as well as the bill of indictment filed by the Hungarian Prosecutor before the Criminal Court of Gyor tally.

The judgment of the Criminal Court of Vienna stated that the offence of people smuggling was committed in Vienna and other locations in the Federal territory and in the European Union in a number of offences that can no longer be precisely determined.

Aljelda’s defence counsel claimed that this wide jurisdictional net catches also the alleged acts of people-smuggling that the Hungarian Judicial Authorities were requesting his extradition for.

But clarifications sought from Eurojust by the office of the Attorney General showed that Aljelda was only convicted of the smuggling of five people in 2015.  

“The remaining 50 persons are based on the confession by the convicted person himself, whereby he didn’t give any more details on when the offences exactly took place other than in the time period between mid 2015 and 21 July 2016.” This explained the vague wording of the Viennese court.

The communication mentions that Aljelda was thought to be connected to 8,000 people-smuggling cases, but that they had insufficient details to achieve a conviction. Under Austrian law, although Aljelda was not convicted for the remaining 7,950 persons smuggled, neither was he acquitted.

“It is true that the Criminal Court of Vienna convicted the requested person for smuggling of at least 55 aliens. However, it is crucial to note that according to the Eurojust Deputy National Member for Austria, according to the Law of Austria, the requested person was not convicted by the Criminal Court of Austria for those other transports that could not be proven attributable to the involvement of the requested person in the crime. On the other hand this Officer stresses that according to Austrian Law, the requested person was not acquitted of that accusation either.”

From the evidence submitted to the Court of Magistrates, it transpired that while he was engaged in smuggling Afghans, Moroccans, Palestinians, Syrians and Somalis into Europe, Aljelda was also involved in what appeared to be a parallel criminal organisation which was aimed at smuggling people in Austria and Germany through Hungary.

“The Court of Magistrates (Malta) rightfully claimed that, on the basis of the evidence available to it, it could not conclude that in this case the “same acts” requirement was satisfied such that the material acts, although linked in time and in space were also linked by their subject matter, thus making up an inseparable whole.”

The court rejected the others grievances raised by Aljelda’s lawyers and declared that the extradition could go ahead, subject to any further court proceedings he might file.

Superintendent George Cremona and Inspector Omar Zammit appeared on behalf of the Maltese police. Lawyers George Camilleri and Kaylie Bonett represented the Office of the Attorney General.

Lawyer Ramon Bonett Sladden was defence counsel.

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