The authorities only put in a request for the EU to lift John Dalli’s immunity from prosecution last month, despite an alleged bribery attempt which took place nine years ago.
Police Commissioner Angelo Gafà re-activated the former EU commissioner’s investigation following his appointment last year, with charges originally set to be issued in September.
Prosecutors put in an 11th-hour request for the September case to be postponed, with another request for a delay made on Friday over a legal wrangle about whether Dalli’s EU immunity can torpedo the planned charges.
EU officials are granted immunity to protect them from vexatious charges as a result of actions carried out in their official capacity.
The court heard that the attorney general is still awaiting direction from the European Commission over whether Dalli’s immunity will be lifted.
Fears were raised by prosecutors in court that the immunity could protect Dalli from plans to charge him for soliciting a €60 million bribe to influence EU legislation.
But a commission spokesperson told Times of Malta the immunity can be waived upon request by national authorities.
Law requires the commission to follow a specific procedure
In Dalli’s case, the spokesperson said the commission received the request to waive immunity last month, in relation to the incident dating back to 2012.
The spokesperson said the immunity can be waived in circumstances where doing so does not go against the interests of the EU.
Before this decision is taken, the law requires the commission to follow a specific procedure, which is what the commission is doing right now, the spokesperson said.
The latest legal tussle over immunity is yet another speedbump in a case which has seen Dalli avoid prosecution for close to a decade.
The former EU commissioner and Nationalist minister’s case is set to continue on December 21, with the magistrate warning the prosecution there would be no further delays as it is not fair for someone to be left with charges dangling over their head indefinitely.
Dalli stepped down as EU health commissioner in October 2012, following an investigation by the EU’s anti-fraud office into attempts by his former aide Silvio Zammit to solicit the €60 million bribe.
Zammit was charged with the bribery attempt in December 2012.
Then police commissioner John Rizzo had also planned to charge Dalli, who stayed away from Malta following Zammit’s prosecution.
When the Labour Party shot to power in March 2013, Rizzo’s replacement Peter Paul Zammit declared there was no case for Dalli to answer to.
Dalli was promptly appointed a consultant on health by then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.