Second European Arrest Warrant for Czech man who claimed to have been abducted in Gozo

The man’s lawyer accused of Czech authorities of abusing the system in order to get his client to testify against third parties

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

A Czech man who had claimed to have been abducted in Gozo and forced to sign incriminating documents when he was arrested on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) in January last year, has returned to court after a fresh arrest warrant was issued by the Czech authorities.

40-year-old Marek Drga was asked whether he was voluntarily surrendering himself to the European Arrest Warrant. “I am not,” he replied.

The accused, who declared that he is the person mentioned in the arrest warrant, is wanted by the district court in Zlín for evading tax, fraudulently obtaining tax reduction and complicity in an offence.

A request for bail was made by defence lawyer Roberto Montalto. 

Lawyer George Camilleri from the Attorney General’s office objected. This is not the first EAW referring to the requested person, said the lawyer. 

“Over the past 13 months, Drga was extradited to face similar accusations and did not consent to that either. It was ordered nonetheless, he was duly prosecuted and a decision was taken against him.” He is appealing that decision and returned to Malta in the interim.

The lawyer explained that this second EAW was due to the rule of speciality - a legal safeguard whereby a person who is extradited to a country to stand trial for certain criminal offences may be tried only for those offences and not for any other pre-extradition offences.

Drga had filed an application to retrieve his ID card from the acts of the previous case, pointed out the prosecutor. He called it “a tell tale sign that, in conjunction with his resistance to extradition, the fear of absconding is tangible and real.”

Camilleri said the Attorney General feared that the requested person, in an attempt to evade justice, would not appear as stipulated in the bail bond. “Since we’re dealing with a second EAW of a high profile case in the Czech Republic, the prosecution feels that there is a risk of him absconding.”

Drga’s lawyer Roberto Montalto said that “once again the Czech Republic was abusing the system”.

“The present request had originally been made in January 2018. Back then, Drga’s appeal for the first EAW had concluded. This second EAW was then filed saying the effects of the first EAW should be brought into effect.”

“Drga was tried,” said the lawyer, and “all throughout proceedings, he was being coerced to renounce his right of the rule of speciality and pressured to testify against third parties which is the real reason for the request.”

He had appealed the decision and the proceedings are still pending, the lawyer explained.

In the interim, he had been granted bail by the Czech authorities and he was allowed to travel by the authorities now requesting his forceful return, Montalto said. “He’s been in Malta since October 2018, having returned to the same job he had in Malta before his extradition. He went to the police in order to obtain his ID card so as to regulate his position.

He had nothing to hide, insisted the lawyer. “He came to Malta initially to protect himself, as explained during the proceedings of the first court.” “I want to show that I am here legally,” Drga interjected. 

Camilleri conceded that the Office of the Attorney General had found it “unsavoury” that the Czech authorities asked that he be extradited again. “But as there were new charges and new circumstances we are obliged to adhere to the new EAW.”

Requesting bail, Montalto said that the issue at the moment was release from arrest and that there was no real fear of him absconding or not abiding by the court’s orders. “I maintain that this is an abuse of procedure by the Czech Republic and that it would be very unfair if he is held on remand.”

Magistrate Rachel Montebello, after having heard the submissions from both sides on bail, rejected the request in view of the fact that the court was not convinced that the person requested offered sufficient guarantees to observe the conditions it may impose. Neither was the court convinced that there was no danger of the man absconding, it said.

The case will continue on 13 February.

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