A disbarred lawyer charged with fraud and misappropriation submitted in court yesterday that his ill-health and problems to access files containing crucial documents meant he could not prepare his defence case adequately.

Yesterday, Patrick Spiteri again took the witness stand in criminal proceedings over misappropriation, fraud and falsification of documents.

Using crutches, Dr Spiteri testified that he had systematically filed all his documents until 2013, when he contracted the degenerative disease Behcet’s Syndrome, which caused neurological damage.

He had close to 400 box files at his GuardamanÄ¡ia office, next to his parents’ residence.

However, when the premises were seized by HSBC in 2015, the documentation ended up in disarray, he said. About 98 boxes were taken to court but the rest remained there.

The working conditions had detrimental effects on his fragile state of health

A court decree had granted him access to the files but when he went to the Guardamanġia offices, accompanied by plainclothes policemen, Dr Spiteri said he had to work in a closed, dusty room. However, he added, the working conditions had detrimental effects on his fragile state of health.

He had also been allowed to consult the files kept in court and was allocated space at the lock-up but permission to do so was withheld after August 11.

Since no documents could be taken to prison, where he is being held under preventive custody, Dr Spiteri said it had become practically impossible for him to assist his lawyer, Stefano Filletti, in his brief.

Such problems would be surmounted were he to be granted bail and allowed to reside with his parents, thus having easy access to his documents and being able to work in a healthy environment, Dr Spiteri noted.

Working from the closed, restricted and cockroach-infested confines of his cell was practically impossible, he added.

Assistant Police Commissioner Ian Abdilla, conducting the prosecution, pointed out that, by virtue of an earlier decree, Dr Spiteri had been authorised to find alternative storage and a workplace, even possibly a garage, where he could transfer all his files and work from such a place.

Dr Filletti argued that the search for alternative premises was hindered by the fact that his client was in prison.

What did other inmates do and how did they prepare their defence, Mr Abdilla asked.

Dr Filletti insisted this was a particular case, which included over 300 boxes of evidence.

The case continues.

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