Smuggled jet-skis were ‘for fun’, claimed shipper fighting extradition to Italy

Paul Attard, who is fighting extradition to Italy over a 10-tonne cannabis smuggling case, loses court battle to reclaim jet-skis confiscated by Customs Department

Paul Attard (right) flanked by his lawyer, in an interview for French TV programme Enquete Esclusive
Paul Attard (right) flanked by his lawyer, in an interview for French TV programme Enquete Esclusive

The Court of Appeal has confirmed a court’s dismissal of a request for the release of two jet-skis seized by Customs in 2013 after an attempt to smuggle them on board a cargo ship sailing from Malta to Libya.

Paul Attard, a shipping entrepreneur who is fighting extradition to Italy on charges relating to the smuggling of 10 tonnes of cannabis, had denied trying to illegally export the jet-skis, which had not been listed on the cargo manifest, claiming they were personal possessions of his not subject to any declaration requirements.

Attard filed proceedings against the Director of Customs in 2013, after the pleasure craft were seized by the Maltese customs authorities.

But the case was decided against him: the court said that while every other item on the ship, from televisions all the way down to a portable calculator, had been declared amongst the ships provisions, the jet-skis were not.

Attard was unable to tell the court the horsepower of their engines and neither were they insured, noted the judge. His claim that they had been used by the crew for fun in a Libyan port was dismissed as “totally incredible” by that court.

An appeal to that judgement was filed, in which Attard claimed that the court had based its decision on mistaken considerations, which did not reflect the evidence provided and had been incorrect in its interpretation of the law.

The Court of Appeal, presided by Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti and judges Joseph R. Micallef and Tonio Mallia, upheld the lower court’s decision, noting that it had been correct in describing Attard’s claim to own the jet-skis, whilst unsure of whether they were covered by insurance despite having allowed the crew to use the jet skis in port as “rather incredible.”

On Attard’s claim that the craft were not merchandise of cargo, but “goods” which did not fall within the scope of the Customs Ordinance, the court said that while it was true that not everything on board a ship was considered merchandise, it disagreed that the jet-skis could fail to be declared. The judges said that while other seacraft that were being transported aboard the vessel had been listed on the manifest, the jet-skis had not been so declared.

The law was clear in stating that undeclared items on board which were discovered by Customs had to be confiscated, ruled the court, adding that the fact that they had not been declared raised its suspicions as to why they were there in the first place.

The court said it was unconvinced by the “fun rides” explanation given by Attard.

The appeal was dismissed by the court which also ordered that the costs of both the initial case as well as the appeal be borne by Attard.