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MALTATODAY 12 December 2021

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2 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 12 DECEMBER 2021 NEWS CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Attard has previously declared he was never the owner of the ship, but that he helped put to- gether a crew and a boat for a Ukranian contact, through a broker – Irishman Joseph O'Connor, who is based in Mal- ta. O'Connor fixes up broken vessels which he resells. In two cases, the boats were later inter- cepted in drug smuggling busts; in another case, in 2005 he was acquitted of trafficking hashish on the Spanish high seas. The Quest was in fact owned by O'Connor's company Mal- ta Towage. O'Connor's lawyer had told the OCCRP reporters that O'Connor's other company, Britannia Shipping Internation- al, sold the Quest a Ukrainian named Mykola Khodariev, in May 2018, three weeks before the hashish bust. Investigators believe Attard has evaded the police by using tugboats to tow in vessels with illegal goods – when caught, the crews claim they were helping another ship in need. In June 2017, Attard's Med Patron car- go ship sailed from from Bar, Montenegro to meet up with two tug boats on Hurd's Bank – one which he had chartered, the other which he represented as agent. Police believe that David Bonello directed a ship-to-ship operation in which more than 6,000 master cases of cigarettes were transferred from the Med Patron to the tugs; Spanish po- lice then intercepted one of the tugboats on Spanish waters, ar- resting the crew. Attard denied owning the Med Patron, despite ship registration papers showing otherwise. Extradition process In November, Attard filed an appeal to a judgement by the Maltese Court of Magistrates in which it was decided that he would be extradited to Italy. Arrested on 6 September, his case was assigned to magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech, who however abstained on 7 Septem- ber having already presided and rejected a previous request for his extradition in June 2019, rul- ing that the extradition request was marred by formal defects and that the Italians had not abided by either EU or their own laws. The case was then assigned to Magistrate Joseph Mifsud, who also decreed that he should ab- stain. The Chief Justice sub- sequently assigned the case to Magistrate Doreen Clarke, who immediately held a sitting on 13 September. Attard was released on 4 Oc- tober, the court ruling that the crime for which his extradition was being requested was not an extraditable offence. Both Attard and the Attorney General filed appeals to this judgement: Attard's appeal was declared irregular and null; the Attorney General's was partially upheld. As a result, the decision to release Attard was revoked and the extradition case was ordered to continue before the Court of Magistrates. Magistrate Clarke then ab- stained from hearing the case, which was subsequently as- signed to Magistrate Noel Bar- tolo. Attard then requested a Con- stitutional reference, to decide whether his remand in custody during his right of appeal was in breach of his rights. The court ruled against him on 10 Novem- ber, and a sitting for a final de- cision was set for 15 November. But on 12 November, Attard's lawyers filed a request for a de- lay in sentencing, to allow him to make further submissions be- cause the Attorney General had failed to present a note explain- ing Malta's position vis-à-vis ju- risdiction under the framework of the United Nations Conven- tion against Illicit Traffic in Nar- cotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. That same day, the AG exhibited a number of judg- ments it made reference to dur- ing the proceedings. On 15 November, the day judgement was supposed to be handed down, Attard filed two court applications: first accusing the prosecution of dereliction of duty, and asking to be allowed to debate the bars to extradition once again; and the second re- questing the court to order the Italian authorities to communi- cate to it any information relat- ing to the case which they had received from Holland. Attard withdrew the first re- quest on the bars to extradition; the court denied the second re- quest, ruling that there was no need for further information for its decision to be made. Lengthy submissions were pre- sented the day after on 16 No- vember, where the court handed down judgement against Attard, ordering him to be returned to Italy to face trial. Appeals court: 'nullity does not result' Attard appealed, arguing that the extradition decision was af- flicted by a "substantial lack of formalities" that rendered it null. Attard argued that the decision ordered him to be held in cus- tody awaiting extradition, when the law either ordered return or release; the Appeals Court accepted that clearer language could have been used by the first court, but "there was no equiv- ocation or uncertainty" and turned down the argument. The court also dismissed At- tard's plea that a 60-day period had been exceeded, saying it was not strictly bound to release him after that period. The law allows the authorities to inform Euro- just in exceptional cases where the period is overrun and give reasons for the delay; the judge pointed out that Attard himself caused delays with his request for additional information from Italy. Since Attard is not being charged in Malta for the same offences he is being extradited for, there are no bars to extradi- tion. The Court of Magistrates had still invested itself in a dis- cussion about proceedings in Malta, given that Attard himself asked for a delay to be able to de- bate bars, based on the prosecu- tion's failure to begin proceed- ings against him in Malta. The discussion was therefore about "inexistent facts", said the judge. Attard was not charged in Malta due to a jurisdictional is- sue decided by the court on 28 October, with the judge arguing that Attard was "now trying to invoke an impediment to extra- dition that was not part of the law due to a failure by the legis- lator to completely implement the Framework Decision... In other words, the extraditee is at- tempting to introduce a reason to impugn the judgement of this Court as differently presided." The judge even denied Attard's request for a preliminary refer- ence to the European Court of Justice, saying the request did not satisfy the legal requisites for this procedure. Inspector Mark Galea prose- cuted. Lawyer George Camilleri represented the Office of the At- torney General in the proceed- ings. Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi appeared for Attard. Caruana unfit for public life, must be removed from minister, PN says LUKE VELLA THE Nationalist Party has called on education minister Justyne Caruana to immediately publish a Standards Commis- sioner's report into an alleged breach of ethics, despite this being technically impossible for her to do. The reports of the Standards Commissioner are never made available to the person under investigation, because these are handed only to the Speaker of the House. The Standards Commission- er is believed to have found that Caruana breached ethics by assigning a €5,000 a month contract to her boyfriend and former footballer Daniel Bog- danović. The Commissioner does not circulate any case reports to the complainant or the person under investigation, but only to the Standards Committee. "It is for the Committee to decide on subsequent circulation of the report. Its normal practice is to release the report to the public rather than to circulate it pri- vately to any person." This means that the report is only in the hands of Speak- er and Committee head Anglu Farrugia. Caruana and the com- plainants, Bogdanovic's ex-wife and Arnold Cassola should not have access to it, unless publicly circulated. In comments to MaltaTo- day, the PN acknowledged the wrong wording was used and said the statement should have called on Caruana to ask for the report to be published, and not to publish it herself. The PN stressed that the soon- er the report is published and action is taken against Caru- ana, the sooner the education sector can be allowed to move on. "Malta needs an educa- tion minister who prioritis- es better pay for teachers, not €5,000-a-month jobs for their boyfriends," PN said. "This scandal has proven Caruana unfit for public life, so if Abela really believes in raising standards, he should immedi- ately remove her from his par- liamentary group. By his own low standards – as in the case of Rosianne Cutajar – Abela should at the very least remove Caruana's portfolio." Police believe shipper uses tug- boats to avoid arrest on smuggling Investigators believe Attard has evaded the police by using tugboats to tow in vessels with illegal goods – when caught, the crews claim they were helping another ship in need

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