Court decrees Patrick Spiteri's continued arrest legal

Ex-lawyer has been held in custody ever since being extradited to Malta from the UK to face charges of fraud and misappropriation

Patrick Spiteri has been denied bail once more
Patrick Spiteri has been denied bail once more

A court had decreed that disbarred lawyer Patrick Spiteri's continued arrest is legal.

Spiteri was extradited to Malta from the UK in May following a cat and mouse game with the Maltese authorities, to face charges of fraud and misappropriation amounting to around €7.4 million.

Spiteri had been arrested in the UK on the strength of at least seven European Arrest Warrants. It was the third time the Maltese authorities had attempted to bring Spiteri to Malta: he is believed to have escaped from custody the first time and had resisted the second attempt to transfer him to the island, citing a medical condition.

He was finally successfully transferred to Malta after local police flew a doctor to the UK, together with the arresting officers, who then certified Spiteri as fit to fly and stand trial.

The ex-lawyer has been held in custody since then, despite filing bail requests before several courts.

Although health grounds were the primary justification for his bail requests, other reasons given included the argument that he was unable to physically access the hundreds of boxes of documents he claimed to need for his defence, part of which were being held in court and another part being held in a Guardamangia property, which has been seized by HSBC.

In proceedings before Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera, Spiteri argued that the European arrest warrant which brought him to Malta only covered his transfer from England and did not envisage his continued detention afterwards. Rather, his lawyer Stefano Filletti contended, he should be returned to the state he was in before his rendition to Malta - on bail - the status quo ante.

While the court agreed with the defence’s submissions to the effect that bail is the rule and not the exception, it disagreed with the status quo ante argument. “With all due respect the defence is incorrect in saying...that subsidiary legislation 276.05 deals with the return of the accused and not his prosecution.”

A European arrest warrant can only be issued for the purposes of conducting a criminal prosecution or executing a custodial sentence, said the court. Therefore in this case, the order was issued for the prosecution of the crime mentioned in the EAW and the criminal proceedings against the accused must continue.

Magistrate Scerri Herrera observed that Spiteri had been brought to Malta on the strength of the warrant and that when he was arraigned after being extradited Spiteri had made no request for bail.

A European arrest warrant was treated differently than other proceedings and was regulated by a special law. The time spent in preventive custody would be reduced from the final sentence if guilt is found. “Therefore the law itself recognizes circumstances where a person can be under preventive arrest under the special law,” said the court.

Bail was denied.

Inspectors Ian Abdilla and Helga Debono prosecuted, while lawyer Stefano Filletti represented the accused.

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