A court this evening acceded to a request by the Lithuanian authorities for the extradition of a Maltese-Australian man wanted over allegations of fraud.
Earlier, the man hasfailed in his bid to suspend proceedings before a Maltese court over the European Arrest Warrant, pending a preliminary ruling from the European Court of Justice.
The case involves 44-year-old Angelo Spiteri who is a director of Vilnius-registered travel company Atostogu Sandelis.
Lithuanian authorities claimed that Mr Spiteri had authorised company employees to accept money in return for accommodation services, which in reality were never offered. The alleged fraud was committed between 2010 and 2011. If convicted, he could sentenced up to 17 years in jail.
Mr Spiteri’s defence team, led by lawyer Jason Azzopardi, yesterday invoked a provision of European law which had never been used in Malta before.
During his submissions, Dr Azzopardi pointed to reports by the Council of Europe which had condemned the Lithuanian prison system, comparing its conditions to those of the Soviet Union.
He backed his claim quoting a 2013 decision by the Irish Supreme Court, which had blocked the extradition of Real IRA member Liam Campbell to Lithuania to face weapon smuggling charges.
The Irish court had refused the extradition request on the grounds that this would expose him to a “real risk of inhuman and degrading treatment by reason of the jail conditions.”
Consequently the defence said that, if found guilty, it would request its client to serve the prison term in Malta. However, Dr Azzopardi argued that the legal notice which transposed a Council Framework Decision on the European Arrest Warrant and surrender procedure into Maltese law had omitted such eventuality.
During today’s sitting the defence requested the court to seek the advice of the European Court of Justice, claiming that this framework decision had been wrongly transposed by Maltese legislators.
In his decision, Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, following heated exchanges between the defence and the prosecution, ruled that it was not necessary to have the ECJ’s preliminary ruling over this matter.
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