Prosecution files appeal against decision not to extradite alleged Ndrangheta drug smuggler

The proceedings had been declared null in June after the man's lawyers attacked the validity of the Schengen Information System alert attached to the EAW

The Attorney General has filed an appeal to the decision to decline an extradition request issued in the name of a Maltese man who is wanted for prosecution in Italy on organised crime and drug smuggling charges.

In December 2021, Italian police had issued a European Arrest Warrant for Maltese citizen John Spiteri, 56, of Qrendi, after a four-year investigation into a drug trafficking ring, which culminated in raids on several properties in Italy. Some 430kg in cannabis, cannabis resin and cocaine were reportedly seized by the Italian Guardia di Finanza during the raids which largely targeted individuals from known mafia families.

The proceedings had been declared null in June, after Spiteri’s lawyers, Lawyers Franco Debono, Charles Mercieca and Francesca Zarb, had successfully attacked the validity of the Schengen Information System (SIS) alert attached to the EAW.

The AG has now filed an appeal, arguing that the Court of Magistrates did not follow the procedure laid down in the Extradition (Designated Foreign Countries) Order and had “decided to hear the proceedings in a manner contrary to the spirit of the same law that regulates proceedings triggered by an EAW.”

The law regulating the proceedings explicitly laid down, “step by step,” the documentation required, argued prosecutor George Camilleri.  

“The information and documentation required for these proceedings had all been exhibited and there was no type of document (that can be deemed as legally mandatory in extradition proceedings) missing from the acts of the proceedings,” reads the appeal application.

“In fact…the prosecution had already exhibited far more detailed official information than a Form A could ever provide and [the court] had accepted its exhibition for the benefit of both parties. Therefore, both the court and the extradant had access to more information regarding his legal position in the requesting State, the Republic of Italy…”

There was no obligation on the prosecution to exhibit the Form A, a document which was described as having “negligible legal weight” at law, next to the other documentation provided, it was added.

The Attorney General contended that the magistrate went beyond the applicable legal requirements and reached a conclusion, which included the release of the extradant, which, the AG argued, found no comfort in the applicable law.

It was also argued that the form in question functioned simply as a technical receipt in Sirene-related work, and would have been available to the court in just minutes, had it exercised its power to request it directly from the Italian authorities as supplementary information. On the other hand, the timeframe for it to be obtained at the request of the Attorney General’s Office risked rendering the case time-barred.

The decision to deny the extradition request was not legally sound, said the prosecutor, asking the Criminal Court to declare the judgement null and order Spiteri’s extradition, or failing that, to revoke Spiteri’s bail and declare that there are no impediments to his extradition.