In a landmark decision, a court has granted bail to a Maltese-Australian man facing extradition to Lithuania.
Malta’s Extradition Act states that people facing extradition should be remanded in custody, regardless of whether they had been granted bail or not before the judgment had been delivered.
On January 15, the Magistrates Court had ordered Angelo Spiteri, 44, to be extradited to Lithuania, a judgment which was later confirmed by the Court of Appeal.
The accused is a director of Vilnius-registered travel company Atostogu Sandelis.
The Lithuanian authorities have claimed that Mr Spiteri had authorised company employees to accept money in return for accommodation services, which in reality were never offered. The alleged fraud was committed between 2010 and 2011. If convicted, he could be jailed for up to 17 years.
Mr Spiteri was remanded in custody from January 15 onwards, despite appealing the judgment - not because he had breached his bail conditions but simply because the Extradition Act categorically precludes him from asking for bail. The law moreover stipulates that in the event that bail had been granted, it had to be immediately revoked.
Mr Spiteri had subsequently filed constitutional proceedings requesting the court to declare Malta's Extradition Act unconstitutional.
Madam Justice Lorraine Schembri Orland today held that a distinction should be drawn between a person found guilty under a foreign jurisdiction and a person who has not yet been proven so.
In this case, Mr Spiteri has still not faced criminal proceedings in Lithuania.
The court therefore upheld the request for bail against a deposit of €5,000 and a personal guarantee of €20,000.
Lawyers Jason Azzopardi, Kris Busietta and Eve Borg Costanzi appeared for the accused.
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