A legal bid by alleged fuel trader Darren Debono to block the government from pursuing international sanctions against him has been denied by the courts.
The court on Monday withdrew a warrant of prohibitory injunction against the Maltese government. The warrant had previously been provisionally upheld.
Mr Debono had filed the request in an attempt to ensure that any attempt to subject him to sanctions was denied. Monday’s decision comes after a similar move by Mr Debono’s associate, Gordon Debono.
During the case against the latter, a representative of the local Sanctions Monitoring Board declared that Malta would not "at present" be pushing for the United Nations to impose international sanctions. In view of the declaration, the court decreed that it would no longer consider the case and lifted the prohibitory injunction.
A day later, the government said in a statement that the declaration in court did not mean that it would not press for sanctions against Gordon and Darren Debono.
Gordon Debono’s lawyer then filed a judicial note stating that the authorities were in contempt of court for their intention to “go back upon their sworn declaration.
The two men are suspected of large-scale fuel smuggling.
Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti in his decision in the Darren Debono case said on Monday that there was no “concrete or objective right” which the government had impinged on by its actions.
Darren Debono had filed the application on behalf of his three companies, Water World Fisheries Ltd, Andrea Martina Ltd and Maria De Lourdes Ltd against the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The attempt came after the government sought to obtain UN-backed sanctions against the former footballer-turned-fuel trader and his two associates, Gordon Debono and Libyan businessman Fahmi Bin Khalifa.
That bid was put on hold when Russia sought further information about the sanctions, in what is known as a “technical hold”.
Last week, local media reported that Mr Debono's lawyer had last week alleged that his client had spoken to US embassy officials. The latter allegedly asked for information about the Prime Minister, his chief of staff and alleged refuelling of Russian ships.
Those claims prompted the Maltese and US governments to issue a statement on Saturday in which they reiterated their close collaboration and denied claims that "key individuals" were not trusted by either party.
Mr Justice Chetcuti noted that Mr Debono had sought the injunction following “allegations and hypotheses” made in the media.
However, there was no proof that there was “any motion or proposal” pending before the Maltese Parliament or any other international organ concerning Mr Debono, the judge noted.
In any case, Mr Justice Chetcuti continued, Mr Debono had the right to fight any such measures in their respective fora. At this stage, his fundamental rights were not at risk of being prejudiced.
Sanctions would hurt Mr Debono’s pocket and be an inconvenience, the court said, but even then he would still have the right to avail himself of effective remedies in terms of law.
Diplomatic discussions and dealings fell outside the jurisdiction of the court, went on the decree.
Since no “concrete or objective right” of the applicant was being prejudiced, the requisites for the prohibitory injunction did not subsist, said the court, thereby lifting the warrant.
Lawyer Victor Bugeja was counsel to Mr Debono.
Correction August 12: A previous version stated that Mr Debono said he was approached by US officials. It was Mr Debono who allegedly approached them.