Leisure Clothing lawyers claim jailed directors had already been convicted and punished in 2017

Bin Han and Jia Liu, two former dircetors of the defunct Leisure Clothing, have filed constitutional proceedings, claiming a breach of fair trial rights

Lawyers representing defunct textile factory Leisure Clothing and its directors Bin Han and Jia Liu have informed a constitutional court that their clients had already been found guilty and punished in identical proceedings held in 2017, of which no records could be found.

Han and Jia were both jailed for six years in January, after being convicted on appeal of trafficking and exploiting Vietnamese and Chinese employees at the Bulebel-based factory. They were found guilty of forcing employees to work long days with few to no breaks, in illegal working conditions.

They had subsequently filed constitutional proceedings in March, claiming a breach of fair trial rights, arguing that because they had been jailed after their acquittal was overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeal, that court had not heard evidence or witnesses, nor had it sent the acts back to the Court of Magistrates for the evidence to be heard and evaluated there. 

Lawyers make remarkable claim 

But in a follow-up application filed earlier today by lawyers Jose Herrera, Pio Valletta, Jason Azzopardi, and Therese Comodini Cachia, the lawyers claim that the same facts which had led to the criminal conviction had been the subject of other proceedings before (now retired) Magistrate Carol Peralta. 

A copy of the summons and charges relating to that case was attached to the application, together with a letter from the Department of Industrial and Employment Relations in which the department declares that those proceedings had been decided.

The application goes on to state that “some of the accusations are identical to those in the proceedings on the merits of this case and it is certain that all the accusations arise from the same facts.”

Han and Jia were in possession of “a substantial part of the relative case file,” said the lawyers. “However, despite a great effort on their part and on the part of the defence lawyers, neither the case file nor the judgement can be traced.”

What was certain, they claim, is that a summons had been filed on 9 September 2014, therefore before the proceedings that gave rise to the constitutional case. From information received from the DIER, that case had been decided in 2017, well before the conclusion of the criminal case against them.

In that decision, it is claimed, Han and Jia had been sentenced to probation and ordered to pay a sum of money- although it is unclear whether this was a fine or the amount of withheld wages.

Quoting a number of judgements issued by courts in Malta as well as by the European Court of Human Rights, which prohibit the trial of a second offence in so far as it arises from identical facts or facts which are substantially the same, the lawyers argued that their clients “should never have been brought to Court again let alone sentenced to three years imprisonment each including the confiscation of all their assets.”

As a result of this alleged failure by the authorities, Han and Jia were suffering a “great and irreparable prejudice”,  they said.

The fact that the case file seems to have been lost was not the result of negligence on their part, for which they should not suffer prejudice, the lawyers argued.