Dalligate: Silvio Zammit’s rights breached, court orders prosecution’s evidence closed

A judge has ordered the prosecution to close the compilation of evidence against entrepreneur Silvio Zammit to close after delay in proceedings

Silvio Zammit
Silvio Zammit

A judge has ruled that delays in concluding the criminal case over trading in influence and bribery, filed against businessman Silvio Zammit, have breached his fundamental human rights.

As a consequence, the judge ordered that the compilation of evidence against Zammit be declared closed.

Zammit, who was accused of trading in influence and complicity in the request of a €60 million bribe from a Swedish tobacco company had accused the Attorney General of ignoring the constitutional court and dragged his feet by refusing to declare his evidence closed in the six-year legal saga.

This meant that the case could not progress to the subsequent trial stage.

The attempted bribery had cost former European commissioner John Dalli his place in the Brussels executive. Zammit was a canvasser for Dalli and had tried to use his influence to bring about changes to EU rules banning snus, a chewable form of tobacco. Dalli was investigated but never charged by the police in Malta. Dalli has always denied wrongdoing.

In April, after Zammit sought recourse in the constitutional court due to the inordinate delay in declaring the evidence closed, the court ordered the criminal proceedings to continue, but the Attorney General had filed an appeal, which was denied.

The acts of the case were sent back to the magistrates’ court to continue being heard, but had to be reassigned to a new magistrate after the presiding magistrate was promoted.

This led to more delays despite the constitutional court having ruled that Zammit was suffering a continuing breach of his fundamental right to a fair hearing, argued his lawyers Edward Gatt and Kris Busietta.

In a judgment handed down today by Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff, the First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction said that the Court of Magistrates had for an unknown reason failed to read out the note of renvoi and despite the fact that this note was already in the acts of the case, had opted to continue to put the case off for the prosecution to make submissions on a request for the removal from the acts of the case of a recording.

The last record of a sitting was in May 2019, and the court said it had no indication as to what had happened after that, “and this whilst observing that the prosecution has no further evidence to present in the compilation of evidence before the Court of Magistrates.”

“In the light of all this, it results clearly that yet again, the proceedings before the Courts of Magistrates went nowhere in an eight-month period and this for no valid reason at law and in no way imputable to the applicant,” the judge ruled.

The judge found the complaint to be justified.

For these reasons, the court declared the applicant to have suffered a breach of his fundamental rights for a fair hearing within a reasonable time and ordered the Court of Magistrates to declare the prosecution’s evidence in the case against Zammit to be closed.

The Attorney General was ordered to pay the costs of the case.

READ MORE: Attorney General ignoring Constitutional decision in Silvio Zammit case, court told