Updated at 11.24am with magistrate's decree on adjournment. 

John Dalli was in court on Friday over an attempt by his aide to solicit a €60 million bribe, however he is yet to be charged as the prosecution fears he may be immune from prosecution.  

Dalli was expected to finally be charged over the alleged bribe which dates back to when he was the European commissioner for health in 2012.  

At the time the alleged bribe was solicited, Dalli was leading reforms to the EU's tobacco directive.  

Prosecutors believe the bribe was to help overturn an EU-wide ban on snus, a form of smokeless tobacco. 

However, in court on Friday morning, the court, presided by Caroline Farrugia Frendo heard how the Attorney General is still unsure over whether Dalli can formally be charged.  

Citing the EU Treaty, AG lawyer Antoine Agius Bonnici said officials may be immune from prosecution for any acts done in their official capacity.

He said the AG is waiting for direction from the European Commission over the issue of immunity. 

Dalli was first meant to be in court in September. That sitting was adjourned because one of the prosecuting officers was unwell. 

On Friday, Dalli's defence lawyers were furious, accusing the prosecution of delay tactics because they did not have a sound case.  

The magistrate ultimately decided to adjourn the sitting.

In a decree delivered shortly afterwards, the magistrate said that the case would continue on December 21.  

The magistrate also warned the prosecution, saying it is not fair for someone to be left with charges hanging above their head indefinitely. 

The court decreed that this would be the final adjournment. 

Next time, the court said, it will proceed with the case and hear witnesses.

If any of the parties fail to turn up, the court will impose fines.

Lawyers Stefano Filletti and Stephen Tonna Lowell assisted Dalli.


As it happened


Case adjourned

9.43am: The magistrate has decided to adjourn the sitting and says she will retire to her chambers to issue a decree on the matter. That's it for now. We will report on the decree once it is delivered.  


Waiting on Brussels 

9.32am: The AG lawyer tells the court that they are waiting on direction from the European Commission. Agius Bonnici says Brussels needs to conclude an administrative procedure before being able to determine the immunity issue.  

The defence is outraged. Dalli was first meant to be in court in September and the prosecution is dragging its feet because it doesn’t have a solid case, Tonna Lowell says.  

The magistrate has to thump on the bench for silence. “I’m packed with cases. I allocated a sitting for this case. Then two days ago I get a request for adjournment. Now I have to go back to my diary and find another date,” she says.  


‘Charge him or let him go’

9.25am: The defence hit back. Both Dalli’s lawyers say that now that the prosecution has decided to take action against Dalli, they must get on with it or let him go.

Meanwhile, Agius Bonnici continues to read snippets from the EU law which lays out this notion of immunity. The law in question is Article 11a of Protocol 7 of the EU Treaty. 


Is Dalli immune from prosecution? 

9.20am: The prosecution and the AG have both raised an issue of possible immunity. It appears there may be an EU law that protects the action taken by the former commissioner, meaning that he may avoid charges. The EU now has to determine if that action was taken in his action as commissioner or not, the court is told. 

Agius Bonnici cites the EU treaty in question: These officials are immune from prosecution for any acts done in their official capacity, he says.  

It’s an academic debate now. The court is told it must determine if the act allegedly committed by Dalli was related to his official EU work. The AG lawyer says this immunity is limited and it’s intended to safeguard the EU, not individuals. 


A request to adjourn

9.10am: The magistrate informs the defence that there has been a request for an adjournment filed by the prosecution.

Dalli’s lawyers object forcefully to this, saying that this is the second time the prosecution was trying to put off the case. Dalli is in court but has not yet formally been charged with any crime.  


Sitting begins 

9.05am: The court is in session. Superintendent Grech says that he’s here to represent the Police Commissioner in this case. Dalli, in a blue suit, white shirt, and red tie, has taken his place in the front bench.  


Dalli arrives in court

9am: Dalli arrives in court. Attorney General lawyers Antoine Agius Bonnici and Anthony Vella are assisting the prosecution.

Inspector Anthony Scerri is prosecuting. Superintendent Grech is representing the Police Commissioner.

Lawyers Stefano Filletti and Stephen Tonna Lowell are assisting Dalli.


Dalli's aide Silvio Zammit was charged in December 2012 with trading in influence and complicity in the €60 million bribe request from a Swedish tobacco company. 

Dalli, however, had escaped charges, only returning to Malta once the newly-elected Labour government removed police commissioner John Rizzo from his job. 

His successor as police commissioner Peter Paul Zammit decided there was not enough proof to bring charges against the former EU commissioner. 

Dalli was forced to quit as EU commissioner in October 2012 after an investigation by the EU's anti-fraud office Olaf uncovered the bribery attempt. 

Dalli insists the charges are part of a deal struck between current police commissioner Angelo Gafa and former Olaf head Giovanni Kessler. 

Gafa was the lead investigator on the case back in 2012.

Olaf had cited "unambiguous circumstantial evidence" of Dalli knowing about Zammit's attempt to solicit the €60 million bribe. 

Dalli on the other hand claims the charges are all part of the "campaign" mounted against him in recent weeks. 

"It is another fraud," Dalli told Times of Malta back in September when news of the court charges first emerged. 


A controversial career

Dalli was appointed to the European commission in 2009, in what was widely seen as a move by then prime minister Lawrence Gonzi to kick his political rival upstairs. 

The former EU commissioner, who spent several stints in cabinet, and who had overhauled Malta's taxation system, has long faced accusations of corruption. 

He resigned as minister for foreign affairs in 2004 over claims he was awarding contracts to a travel agency owned by his daughters. 

He unsuccesfully ran for leadership of the Nationalist Party in 2004 before being appointed foreign minister. 

A few months after resigning as EU commissioner in 2012, Dalli found himself in the Labour fold. 

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat appointed Dalli as his "consultant" on health reform. 

Muscat defended the appointment, even after further details began to emerge about three suspicious trips Dalli took to the Bahamas in the lead up to his resignation from the commission. 

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