Judge rejects bail request by Maltese man fighting extradition to Italy

A judge has ruled that the detention of a Maltese national pending the outcome of an appeal hearing over his extradition to Italy is lawful, denying the man’s bail request

John Spiteri, wanted in Italy over drug charges, has been denied bail by a judge
John Spiteri, wanted in Italy over drug charges, has been denied bail by a judge

A judge has rejected a bail request by John Spiteri, who is fighting extradition to Italy, where he is wanted on drug smuggling charges.

Spiteri, 56, of Qrendi, had been investigated as a result of raids carried out last year by the Italian police, after a four-year investigation into a drug trafficking ring.

Some 430kg of cannabis, cannabis resin and cocaine were reportedly seized by the Italian Guardia di Finanza during the raids, which mostly targeted individuals from known mafia families in Italy.

In December 2021, the Italian police had issued a European Arrest Warrant, together with a Schengen Information System Alert for Spiteri, notifying police forces across Europe that he was a wanted man.

Spiteri was arrested in Malta and arraigned on 11 June, where he did not give his consent to be extradited.

The proceedings had been declared null after Spiteri’s 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 subsequently filed an appeal to the decision, arguing, amongst other things, that the Court of Magistrates had not followed 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.”

On 8 July, Spiteri’s legal counsel had requested their client’s release on bail, as an interim measure until the AG’s appeal was decided.

In a decision delivered in chambers yesterday by Mr Justice Francesco Depasquale, the judge observed that the applicant was currently being held in custody in terms of the law, which permits detention for up to 60 days in such cases.

Pointing out that the extremes required for an interim measure to be granted did not subsist in this case, the judge rejected Spiteri’s request for bail.

Lawyer Julian Farrugia represented the State Advocate in the proceedings.