Malta / Civil Court / 1155/18 FDP

Joseph Zammit vs Commissioner of Police and Attorney General
Deciding body type
National Court/Tribunal
Deciding body
First Hall, Civil Court
Decision date
  • Malta / Civil Court / 1155/18 FDP
    Key facts of the case:
    This case involved an application for the release of property confiscated as part of a decision by another court (criminal court). The plaintiff brought a claim arguing that the confiscation of property was incorrect as the property was not purchased with proceeds of the crime and that an exception in that context was provided for in the Money Laundering Act. The defense (Police and Attorney General) in turn responded that the property had not been confiscated under the money laundering act on which the claim was based, but rather under the criminal code. Importantly, the plaintiff had admitted the crime linked to the confiscation (living of the earnings of prostitution and running a brothel). In the context of the case, having taken note of the submissions of the Police and Attorney General which were clearly well-founded, the plaintiff raised a human rights argument namely under the ECHR and the Charter noting that if the Court were to accept the exceptions raised, this would be in violation of his right to property and would amount to too severe a punishment.
    Key legal question raised by the Court:
    The key legal question determined by the court was the legal basis upon which the confiscation of property was made namely, whether it was made under the Money Laundering Act (Article 7) or under the Criminal Code Article 23). The exceptions and provisions on which the applicant relied are to be found in the Money Laundering Act, however, do not apply to the Criminal Code which provides for the confiscation of the corpus delicti as was the case in the current case. In view of this, the preliminary exceptions raised by the defendants in this case were accepted and the case fell through.
    Outcome of the case:
    The application was rejected. In its consideration, the Court notes that once the basis for the procedure is lacking (in this case because the entire case was based on the wrong legal basis) and therefore could not never have succeeded, ‘the applicant cannot try to save his position by, at the last minute, raising constitutional questions. The court further considered that given that the application is based on a lacking premise, any further request cannot be considered, even if it did then make some in obiter comments about the rights and responsibilities of the plaintiff. In particular, the court noted that the plaintiff has a responsibility to abide by the law. More so, the Court noted that the prosecution in the original case had not gone as far as it could have, which diminished any argument that the punishment was excessive, and therefore in violation of the Charter.
  • Paragraphs referring to EU Charter

    It is also seen that within the parameters of the case the applicant raised a concern that might be of Constitutional scope. Namely that if the preliminary exceptions raised by the defendants were to be accepted, his rights to the enjoyment of property as established in Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR would be violated, and that the punishment afforded to this would be excessive when considered against the crime for which he plead guilty. This in violation of Article 49(3) of the Charter, and on this basis he asked the Court to investigate the Constitutionality of this situation.

  • Paragraphs referring to EU Charter (original language)

    Jirriżulta wkoll illi, fil-mori tal-kawża, ir-rikorrent qajjem lanjanza li tista’ tkun ta’ indole kostituzzjonali, ossija illi f’każ illi l-eċċezzjonijiet preliminari imqajjma mill-intimati jiġu aċċettati, d-dritt tiegħu għat-tgawdija tal-propjeta’ kif sanċita’ fl-Artikolu 1 tal-Ewwel Protokol tal-Konvenzjoni għall-Protezzjoni tad-Drittijiet tal-Bniedem u tal-Libertajiet Fundamentali kien ser jiġi leż, kif ukoll illi l-piena inflitta lilu kienet ser tkun waħda eċċessiva meta titqies l-akkuża minnu ammessa, u dana bi ksur tal-Artikolu 49(3) taċ-Charter tal-Unjoni Ewoprea tad-drittijiet tal Bniedem, u għalhekk ir-rikorrent talab lil Qorti sabiex jinvestiga l-kweżit kostituzzjonali ta’ dina l-verten