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Following a legislative process in Parliament that was concluded earlier this month, the government is implementing with immediate effect various important amendments, in particular amendments concerning the functioning of the Asset Recovery Bureau, amendments pertaining to criminal proceedings initiated by the complaint of the injured party, as well as amendments dealing with the procedure of executing warrants of arrest of seagoing vessels.

From its inception in 2018, the Asset Recovery Bureau has carried out crucial work in the field of tracing, collection, storage, preservation, management, as well as appropriate and effective disposal of properties and assets directly or indirectly originating from criminal activities.

However, there were aspects in various laws that empowered the Registrar of Criminal Courts and Tribunals, and not the Asset Recovery Bureau, as the competent authority to conduct proper and efficient tracing, management and disposal of the proceeds of crime. 

Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici said, “Through appropriate amendments in the laws concerned, now the Asset Recovery Bureau will be even more empowered, hence further enhancing the national commitment and strategy against organized crime.”

Another important amendment concerns cases where criminal proceedings are initiated on the complaint of an injured party and the complainant subsequently waives the criminal action. In such circumstances, the Court, in declaring the proceedings as extinguished, used to be constrained to declare that the costs incurred in connection with the employment in the proceedings of any expert had to be borne by the Registrar of Criminal Courts and, ultimately, the public purse.

This situation had been heavily criticised and even labelled as being unjust by the Courts themselves in their pronouncements. Therefore, these amendments will ensure that the mentioned expenses are to be borne by the complainant waiving the criminal action.

The law concerning the procedure of executing warrants of arrest of seagoing vessels will also be amended in order to provide for a more coordinated and efficient procedure which minimises the risks posed to court marshals executing such warrants. Such an amendment would also protect the interests of the person requesting the issuance of the warrant, whilst even ensuring that Court orders are executed in an expedite manner.

All this is being done and will continue to be done to further strengthen the Rule of Law, and to safeguard that Maltese and Gozitan citizens continue reaping benefits of a stronger Justice Sector.