Court to rule on whether lengthy pre-trial breached Silvio Zammit's rights

Magistrate upheld Silvio Zammit’s request to refer to a Constitutional Court the possible breach of his rights


Silvio Zammit
Silvio Zammit

The Magistrate hearing the compilation of evidence against Swedish Match bribery suspect Silvio Zammit has upheld a request to refer to a Constitutional court the issue of whether or not the prosecution's insistence on summoning an unco-operative foreign witness to testify had breached Zammit's rights.

Last month 51-year-old Zammit, who is accused of having solicited a €60 million bribe from snus manufacturers Swedish Match for the reversal of an EU retail ban on snus. complained that his case has been unnecessarily drawn out by the prosecution's refusal to declare its evidence closed.

The compilation of evidence against him has been dragging on for four years.

In an application filed by Zammit's lawyers Edward Gatt and Kris Busietta in the court of Magistrates in June, Zammit had pointed out that prosecuting officer Jonathan Ferris had declared that the only remaining prosecution witness to be Inge Delfosse, who however was refusing to travel to Malta and testify as she risked incriminating herself.

Delfosse was an employee with tobacco producer Swedish Match and had been mentioned as the person who spoke to Zammit about the possibility of a meeting with former EU commissioner John Dalli in the hope of securing a change in EU law regulating tobacco.

Zammit said that because of this, the Attorney General could not declare his evidence closed, nor the case proceed to trial.

Zammit's lawyers argued that this was a breach of his right to a fair hearing. The Attorney General realistically had no other option but to declare the evidence closed, the lawyers said, and the fact that he had refused an invitation to do so by the Court of Magistrates was a challenge to the authority of that court.

In a decree following that application, Magistrate Anthony Vella referred the question of the breach of human rights to the First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction.