An Austrian law firm and a German lawyer have written to the European Commission accusing the Maltese government of undermining European rule of law through a Bill tabled in parliament to amend Malta’s gaming regulations.
The lawyers claimed that the Maltese government was trying to fast-track the legal changes, which would prevent Maltese courts from enforcing sentences handed down against Maltese gaming companies in foreign jurisdictions.
The letter, addressed to Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders and Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, particularly targets Economy Minister Silvio Schembri, who is the minister responsible for the gaming industry in Malta.
Lawyers Karim Weber and Benedikt Quarch said they represented a number of Austrian and German citizens and residents against Maltese gaming companies who they claimed were offering a service “in blatant violation of Austrian and German gaming laws” and where the same Maltese gaming companies “do/did not have a license to operate”.
They wanted to bring to the attention of European Commissioners the Maltese government’s attempts to “blatantly undermine European Rule of Law by blocking the fundamental rights of EU Citizens and Residents”.
The lawyers said their clients were winning judgments in Austria and Germany against Maltese gaming companies which were being ordered to pay back all the money they deposited and lost because they were “offering these games illegally and making an unjustified enrichment over our clients”.
The judgments are then pursued in the Maltese courts where they seek to execute and enforce them in terms of applicable law where judgments are recognised in different member states.
The lawyers accused Schembri of tabling Bill 55 to amend the Maltese Gaming Act to “accommodate the gaming companies registered in Malta”.
The lawyers argued in their letter that the government wanted to pass this law in a “fast track and hush-hush manner”, claiming that the new provisions would mean that past and present officers of Maltese gaming companies will not be able to be held accountable for their actions if they conflict with or undermine the legality of the provision of gaming services in or from Malta on the back of a license issued by the Malta Gaming Authority.
They also claimed that the new law introduces a blanket prohibition on the courts in Malta to recognise and enforce any foreign judgment against Maltese gaming companies. They described this as an attempt to interfere with the judiciary.
“The government of Malta has no right to intervene in the independent arm of the judiciary to determine what constitutes public policy or otherwise, especially when the government of Malta has a vested biased interest totally in favour of gaming companies against the right of citizens and residents of countries like Austria and Germany,” the lawyers wrote.
They allege that through this Bill, there is a “blatant violation” of European rule of law and “a clear interference by the legislature in the independent judiciary and the courts in Malta.”
The lawyers sought the “immediate and urgent intervention” of the European Commission in the matter to prevent the Maltese government from moving forward with the legal amendments.