Appeals court puts paid to Patrick Spiteri’s travel hopes

The Criminal Court has revoked a Magistrates’ Court decree that had allowed disbarred lawyer Patrick Spiteri leave to travel abroad for work

Patrick Spiteri (File photo)
Patrick Spiteri (File photo)

Patrick Spiteri’s hopes of travelling abroad to work were dashed by the appeals court after it overturned a previous ruling that eased bail conditions for the disbarred lawyer.

Spiteri is facing fraud and misappropriation charges of €7.4 million in a case dating back 20 years. He had requested the courts to ease his bail conditions so as to allow him to be able to work abroad.

Spiteri’s lawyer, Stefano Filletti had submitted that the former tax lawyer had to work abroad because he was practically unemployable in Malta on account of the criminal cases in his regard, submitting evidence supporting this argument.

The Court of Magistrates hearing one of the several cases against the lawyer, had upheld his request on 2 September, allowing him to travel for five working days every third week of the month, after informing the police of his travel itinerary.

A refundable deposit of €7,000 was to be paid before each trip, and would be returned upon Spiteri’s return to Malta.

Lawyer Charles Mercieca from the Office of the Attorney General had fought for the revocation of this arrangement, arguing before the Criminal Court that this was simply an example of “sheer persistence” by Spiteri. He went on to explain that there was a real risk of Spiteri absconding if he were allowed to travel abroad.

Mercieca reminded that European Courts applied a test based on the personality, family ties and employment of the applicant in assessing the risk of absconding. Spiteri failed every one of those tests, he said.

There was also the question mark of how Brexit would impact the European Arrest Warrant procedure, he added.

The prosecutor stressed that the job Spiteri had been offered by a UK company – which is run by Spiteri’s mother-in-law – would involve “a lot of international travel often at short notice.”

Spiteri’s lawyer had argued that the presumption of innocence was paramount and argued once again that his client “could not even work as a bus or taxi driver in Malta.”

The charges which he had faced for 20 years, were impacting Spiteri’s daily life, Filletti had insisted.

In Monday’s decree on the matter Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera noted that Spiteri had often “arbitrarily” decided not to attend court sittings that had been purposely scheduled around his medical appointments, before finally absconding.

Noting that Spiteri had later been forced to return to Malta under an EAW, the court gave a timeline of the criminal proceedings against the former lawyer.

Although it acknowledged that the criminal case caused employment difficulties to Spiteri, the Court said it was not assured that Spiteri would return to Malta if he were to be permitted to travel.

If Spiteri “really wishes to get over these proceedings and if he truly believed in his own innocence, he ought to have done his utmost to speed up proceedings… something he had not done so far” admonished the Court.

The judge noted that Spiteri had recently filed a constitutional case, complaining of delays, in full knowledge that such a constitutional application suspended the criminal action, causing further delay.

In addition, there was no absolute right to work, said the judge, explaining that the Court had to balance justice for the accused with the right to material damages by the victim who had already waited for many years for justice.

Noting that the former lawyer did not have a trustworthy character, evidenced by his past attempts at evading justice as well as giving UK authorities the slip, the Court said that Spiteri was not to set foot outside the country, upholding the AG’s request.

More in Court & Police