The long drawn-out court saga surrounding Chilean businessman Alberto Chang Rajii reached an end on Tuesday morning when a Court of Criminal Appeal confirmed the earlier judgment dismissing the request for the man’s extradition.
Mr Justice Antonio Mizzi turned down an appeal by the Attorney General and ordered the discharge of Mr Chang Rajii.
Chilean authorities claim Mr Chang Rajii ran a Ponzi scheme worth $80 million that left investors high and dry.
The entrepreneur, who was lured to Malta after being attracted by its Individual Investor Programme, had his plans derailed after Chilean investigators filed an extradition request urging local authorities to send him back to Chile to face investigation.
In April last year, the Magistrates’ Court, as a Court of Committal, had declared that the prosecution had "failed to sufficiently prove that the offences with which Chang Rajii is accused in Chile are extraditable offences…"
That court’s reasoning stemmed from three considerations - the fact that the witnesses’ declarations had not been confirmed on oath; that the person translating the documents forwarded by the Chilean authorities had not confirmed on oath that these were faithful translations of the original; and that most of the testimonies were given by persons deemed as accomplices under Maltese law.
During the appeal, the AG argued that extradition proceedings were particular (sui generis) proceedings unlike criminal proceedings and were intended “to be an efficient means of co-operation and legal assistance between sovereign states… with the aim of combating crime and bringing fugitive criminals to justice”.
In a judgment delving into legal details surrounding the “formal institute” of extradition, Mr Justice Mizzi shot down the arguments raised by the AG, including the suggestion that in matters of extradition, the court was to adopt “a broad view” in respect of legal technicalities.
“Practically this would mean that a Maltese court is rendered irrelevant as it must accept all that the Attorney General declares that is admissible and acceptable and stop at that. Quite frankly, this would usher into an era where one does not need the courts anymore and what the executive via the Attorney General decides would be enough to grant or not an extradition.”
Lawyers Stefano Filletti and Stephen Tonna Lowell assisted Mr Chang Rajii.
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