Prosecutors have filed a bill of indictment against alleged murderer Daniel Muka, just one week before he would have become automatically eligible for bail.

Muka stands accused of murdering Christian Pandolfino and Ivor Maciejowski, who were shot dead inside their Sliema home in August 2020.

Investigators believe Muka and his co-accused Jesper Kristiansen and Viktor Dragomanski intended to rob the couple but ended up killing them in a botched burglary attempt.

Muka, 27 and from Albania, was set to be automatically freed from preventative custody next week, when 20 months would have lapsed since he was first charged.

Prosecutors will now need to follow the bill of indictment issued for Muka with similar ones for his co-accused in the coming days, or risk seeing them walk out of jail until their cases are resolved.

Dragomanski was arrested just days after Muka, with Kristiansen extradited from Spain later that same month.

According to Maltese law, prosecutors must file a bill of indictment within 20 months of the date when a suspect is first charged with a crime carrying a sentence of nine years in prison or more. If they fail to do so, an accused person is granted bail. 

The legal provision is in place to ensure accused people are not jailed for indeterminate periods of time as their court cases drag on.

Once a bill of indictment is filed, prosecutors are given 30 months to conclude the criminal trial of the accused.

Concerns about the 20-month period lapsing also emerged in the case against Yorgen Fenech, a millionaire businessman who stands accused of complicity in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

In that complex case, the 20-month period was suspended at various points and Fenech was indicted in August 2021. Three other men accused of carrying out that murder were indicted in July 2019. One of those has since admitted to the crime. 

Malta’s judicial system is plagued by some of Europe’s lengthiest court cases. A 2021 EU rule of law report flagged court delays – and a relative lack of magistrates and judges - as a serious concern for the country.

According to the 2021 EU Justice Scoreboard, only Italy, France and Cyprus take longer to resolve administrative, civil and commercial cases than Malta.

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