A fugitive accused of involvement in an armed robbery in Naxxar two years ago and who was extradited from Croatia last month, regained his freedom on Sunday after his lawyers challenged the validity of his arrest. 

The decision delivered by the Criminal Court following an urgent hearing resulted in the immediate release of Vladimir Pajic - a 28-year-old Serbian national, who was hauled back before the Maltese courts on the strength of a European Arrest Warrant. 

The man was previously out on bail while facing criminal proceedings before the Magistrates’ Courts alongside two accomplices in relation to the violent robbery which had taken place at a Naxxar apartment in November 2022. 

But Pajic absconded after last signing the bail book in October last year. 

Some time later, following a call by the Maltese authorities, the wanted man was arrested by Croatian police when trying to cross the border into Serbia. 

He was charged before a Croatian court which concluded that the request for Pajic’s extradition was only partly justified. 

The Maltese authorities’ request was based on the fact that Pajic was to face prosecution for aggravated theft, involvement in a criminal conspiracy and for allegedly breaching bail by absconding. 

However “failure to appear by a person released on bail” was not a criminal offence under Croatian law. Therefore, the Croatian court made it clear that although it was upholding the request for extradition, this was not being done on the basis of that third ground. 

Once back in Malta, Pajic was freshly charged for allegedly breaching bail. 

His defence team immediately voiced doubt over the charge and a translation of the Croatian text subsequently confirmed the defence’s concern. 

The Croatian court made it clear that Pajic was not to be surrendered over the alleged breach of bail. 

That fact was acknowledged by Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit who threw out the prosecution’s case while remanding Pajic in custody and directing the prosecution to “ascertain that the accused [be] brought before that [other] court [presiding over the robbery case] so that those proceedings may continue”. 

But following closely upon that judgment, Pajic’s lawyers filed an Habeas Corpus application challenging the validity of the accused’s continued arrest. 

The application was filed before the Criminal Court in the records of the robbery case and an urgent hearing was scheduled for Sunday, given the extraordinary nature of the procedure. 

After hearing testimony by prosecuting Inspector Lydon Zammit and submissions by the parties, Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera delivered a decree upholding the defence’s request. 

The judge observed that a true copy of documentation proving the existence of a valid EAW was not made available in court. 

Lacking that necessary documentation, the court could not verify the technicalities of the EAW.

Consequently it had no option but to order the applicant’s immediate release since the records available did not prove that his detention was valid, decreed the judge. 

Lawyers Shazoo Ghaznavi, Jessica Formosa and Charlon Gouder are counsel to Pajic. 

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