Russian denied golden passport gets €4,000 over court delays

Judge awards €4,000 in damages for court delays, to Russian IIP applicant who was refused Malta passport

A court has awarded moral damages for court delays to a Russian businessman who challenged Malta’s rejection of his citizenship application under the IIP scheme.

Yury Sergeevich Danilov, 46, from Moscow, had filed a case against the State Advocate, claiming that the government’s outright refusal to grant him Maltese citizenship under the IIP scheme, without giving him the opportunity to address any issues with his application, breached of the principles of natural justice.

Danilov told the court that that he had applied for Maltese citizenship through an approved agent – Nexia BT International Ltd.

He claimed that he had submitted all the necessary documentation along with his application for citizenship for himself, his wife and his daughter, including a statement declaring where his funds were being sourced.

He had presented evidence to the court showing that he was personally worth almost €2.7 million.

He also said he had paid the €17,500 in fees, €10,000 in deposits and committed himself to paying a further €700,000 in contributions, apart from signing  a lease agreement for a Mellieħa maisonette and moving to Malta with his wife and daughter.

In August 2015, the plaintiff received a letter of rejection from the IIP agency, with no information as to the reasons for this refusal.

Danilov sued Malta’s government in February 2016, claiming a breach of his right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time, after 14 sittings in that case were held when in fact all he needed was three. “This delay is a direct result of the obstacles created by witnesses who have a direct interest with the defendant in the case, Identity Malta,” said the court.

“That proceedings are concluded within a reasonable time is one of the important procedural guarantees of fundamental rights enshrined in Article 6 of the convention and article 39 of the Constitution,” said Mr. Justice Toni Abela in his judgment, highlighting the fact that the complexity of the case alone does not make delays reasonable and quoting judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in support of this.

That same European court had emphasised on several occasions that domestic courts cannot remain indifferent to abuses of procedural rights by the parties and persistent delays in proceedings, said the judge. “The attitude of the parties does not exonerate the Courts from their duty to ensure a fair hearing in a reasonable time…”

The applicant had filed an appeal from the decision of the first court in July 2020 but this had not been given a start date, due to the filing of the constitutional case.

Moreover, there was no clear end to the proceedings in sight, despite the fact that civil proceedings have been ongoing for five years and six months, said the court.

The judge pointed out that First Hall of the Civil Court had taken four years and 4 months just to determine two preliminary pleas.

“This court understands that sometimes our courts permit certain delays because they want to give parties as much time as possible to present their case. However with the abundant caution taken... they are risking breaching the other principle of fair hearing within a reasonable time.”

The judge noted that the fact that this was the first case of its type meant that it was expected to take longer than usual to be concluded. “Truly the complexity alone of the case doesn’t lead to every delay being deemed reasonable,” said Abela, pointing out that it was always incumbent on the national authorities to ensure that proceedings are laid out diligently.

The court observed that a first minister supposed to testify, had not been notified correctly and a four-month period was given to rectify this mistake. Further pointless delays were incurred in the evidence stage and the first court failed to keep its own deadline for Identity Malta’s evidence, giving the defendant another 13 months to present its eve evidence.

Upholding the complaint, the judge ruled: “It cannot be said therefore that the court was in conformity with the constitutional and conventional requisites to ensure a fair hearing in a reasonable time.” The delay was deemed unreasonable.

Mr. Justice Abela observed that so far, Malta had no legal framework establishing or regulating effective remedies for breaches of this right. For this purpose, the court also said it was taking into consideration “the moments of passivity” of the applicant.

The sum of €4,000 was awarded to Danilov by the court. Lawyer Cedric Mifsud appeared for the plaintiff.