Court to determine whether convicted mafioso will be extradited to Italy

Court hears final submissions in extradition case for Sicilian man who is wanted in Italy to serve a prison sentence

A court is to decide on Friday whether or not to order the return of a convicted mafioso to Italy, where he had previously been sentenced to imprisonment for drug trafficking and participating in organised crime.

The Italian judicial authorities are requesting the extradition of 32-year-old Gianluca Caruso from Sicily, in order to serve a prison sentence following his conviction on charges related to organised crime and drug trafficking.

In a sitting on Monday, Magistrate Leonard Caruana heard final submissions by both prosecution and defence, on Caruso’s contestation to the European Arrest Warrant issued against him by Italy,.

Police Inspector Roderick Spiteri, prosecuting together with lawyer Sean Xerri De Caro from the Office of the Attorney General, argued that there were no bars to Caruso’s extradition. The wanted man had not received an amnesty, nor was the case against him time barred, and neither did the rule of speciality apply to his case. “As the prosecution, our position is that the case, as it is, means the individual must be returned to Italy.”

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Caruso’s defence lawyer, Charles Mercieca argued that bars to extradition “would exist in the eventuality that the requesting country is unable to guarantee protection from inhumane treatment.” The court had itself sent questions to the Italian authorities about the conditions in which Caruso would be held in Italy and those circumstances could not be overlooked, he said, 

“The Italians didn’t tell us where he would be held and when they eventually replied, the prison authorities gave us three potential places where he could be held. One In the north,one in the south and one in the centre of Italy.” This was not enough, argued the lawyer.

Citing principles established by previous court judgments in similar cases, Mercieca said that guarantees were required as to the place where the inmate would be held. Factors such as population size and whether he would be held in a single occupancy cell or a shared one, would also have to be taken into account, he said.

“In Malta, a single occupancy cell is guaranteed to be at least 7 square metres, a multi-occupancy one 10.5 square metres,” said the lawyer. “In 2020 the Italian authorities refused to extradite Sandro Lopresti to Malta because the cells were deemed overcrowded. So how can they now expect us to send this man into a cell of just 3 square metres and we don’t even know for sure if it is not a shared cell.”

The UN’s Committee Against Torture had established a minimum 4 square metre standard for a single-occupancy cell, argued the defence. 
Judgments by the European Court of Human Rights had established that when there is a possible violation in terms of cell area, there must be other factors, such as outside windows and exercise periods which can be considered but as these varied from prison to prison, the defence said that it could not be sure that Caruso would be protected.

Caruso had been living in Malta for seven years before his arrest in May, on the strength of a European Arrest Warrant issued by a court in Catania, Sicily.

In 2020, he had been convicted of offences relating to trafficking cocaine and marijuana, as well as forming part of a criminal organisation.
Caruso is believed to have absconded to Malta while on bail, leading to him being sentenced in absentia, to imprisonment for seven years and two months by the Catania Court of Appeal.

According to Italian media reports, Caruso had turned himself in five years ago at the Vincenzo Bellini airport in Catania. His crimes were deemed aggravated because they had been aimed at facilitating the Cappello-Bonaccorsi mafia family.