“Extradition is the surrender of a criminal by a foreign state (also referred to as the Host State) to which he has fled for refuge from prosecution to the state within whose jurisdiction the crime was committed, upon the demand of the latter state, so that he may be dealt with according to its laws.”[1]

Extradition under Maltese law is regulated by the Extradition Act[2]. A recent extradition that took place in Malta is that of the Maltese national Daniel Joe Meli, who was recently extradited to the state of Georgia in the United States, for allegedly selling illegal malware on the dark web[3].

There exists no international law or obligation for host states to extradite accused people. Consequently, there exist many bilateral treaties between states, outlining their extradition obligations to one another. Therefore, the obligations of the state of Malta and the procedure it follows in relation to extraditing a person is regulated by Chapter 276 of the Laws of Malta.

Upon receiving and reviewing an extradition order, the function of the Court is not to determine whether the accused is guilty or not, but rather to determine whether there exists prima facie a case against the accused. Therefore, whether there exist reasonable and sufficient evidence against the accused that should lead to his extradition.

The Extradition act serves as a general basis which is then supplemented by the various extradition agreements which Malta is party to. For instance, the agreement entered into between Malta and the United States.

Apart from the agreements entered into by the State of Malta, any extradition agreement or treaty entered into by the European Union, effectively also applies to Malta.

There are 2 extradition procedures which are recognized by Malta. The first is the ordinary procedure (applicable to any state) by which a request for extradition is received by the Office of the Attorney General which shall then proceed to issue a provisional arrest warrant[4] until the Court of Malta determines whether there are reasonable grounds for the requested person to be extradited. With the seal of approval of the Court, the Minister for Justice must then issue a warrant order for the person to be returned to the requesting state within 2 months. In the instance where the requested person consents to the extradition, then this entire procedure is waived.

The second procedure is the European Arrest Warrant procedure (applicable to EU Member States[5]) which is issued according to the ‘Handbook on how to issue and execute a European arrest warrant’, recently updated in 2023.

It is important to note that in extradition procedures, the Court of Malta takes extra precautions to uphold the principle of ne bis in idem (Double Jeopardy), which is also a prevalent rule amongst various legal systems. This is enshrined in Article 39(9) of the Maltese Constitution that essentially prevents any person for being tried twice for the same criminal offence, regardless of where the conviction is issued.

For more information or assistance please contact Dr Robert Tufigno and Dr Delilah Vella.  

[1] Black’s Law Dictionary EXTRADITION Definition & Meaning - Black's Law Dictionary (thelawdictionary.org)

[2] Chapter 276 of the Laws of Malta.

[3] Maltese man to be extradited to US as prime suspect in FBI malware investigation (timesofmalta.com)

[4] Valid for a maximum period of 40 days.

[5] Including similar procedures with the Republic of Iceland, the Kingdom of Norway and the United Kingdom, subject to their respective agreements.

Disclaimer This article is not intended to impart legal advice and readers are asked to seek verification of statements made before acting on them.
Skip to content