A court decision to allow disbarred lawyer Patrick Spiteri to work abroad has been revoked over concerns he could abscond again.

Earlier this month, he was granted a request to travel for five working days a month if he informed the police of his itinerary and paid a deposit of €7,000 before each trip.

But the Criminal Court heard that he was not a "trustworthy character" and there were real fears he could abscond.

The former lawyer is currently facing fraud and misappropriation charges to the tune of some €7.4 million over a case dating back twenty years.

He had previously absconded and was returned under a European Arrest Warrant after being tracked down by the Sunday Times of Malta to a country mansion in the UK.

Earlier this month, a Magistrates' Court had granted a variation of his bail conditions allowing him to work abroad after hearing he had become practically unemployable in Malta. 

The job was offered by a UK company run by Dr Spiteri's mother-in-law. 

However, the Attorney General sought a revocation of this permission.

Lawyer  Charles Mercieca argued that this was nothing but “a clear example of sheer persistence by Dr Spiteri,” and that there was a real fear of absconding were the bail variation to stand.

When considering this risk, European Courts applied a three-fold test based on the personality, family ties and employment of the applicant, Dr Mercieca said, stressing that Dr Spiteri failed on all grounds.

The lawyer also questioned the possible effect of Brexit on the European Arrest Warrant procedure.

Dr Spiteri’s lawyer, Stefano Filletti, had countered that the presumption of innocence was the cardinal principle, stressing that his client could not even work as a bus or cab driver in Malta.

“These charges which he has faced for twenty years, are impacting his daily life,” he said.

The Court, presided over by Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera, observed that Spiteri had previously decided not to turn up for court hearings that had been scheduled around his medical appointments, before finally absconding.

After a 2014 declaration that Spiteri had absconded, he had ultimately been forced to return under a European Arrest Warrant, the Court observed, 

Whilst acknowledging that the criminal proceedings doubtlessly caused difficulties of employment for the former lawyer, the Court “lacked peace of mind” that Spiteri would return to Malta if he were to be granted leave to travel.

If the accused “really wishes to get over these proceedings and if he truly believed in his own innocence, he ought to have done his utmost to speed up proceedings,” said the Court.

This was “something he had not done so far,” as attested by the fact that he had recently filed a constitutional case, claiming delay, when such a constitutional application itself suspended the criminal action, thus resulting in further delay, observed the Court. 

Moreover, the right to work was not an absolute right and the Court was to strike a balance between justice for the accused and the right to material damages by the victim who “had already waited for many years for justice to be served.” 

The former lawyer did not have a “trustworthy character” as shown in the past, when he evaded justice and had even evaded UK authorities, the Court continued.

It therefore upheld the Attorney General’s request, ordering that there was to be no variation of bail allowing Patrick Spiteri to set foot out of the country. 

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