Malta joins the Eu­ro­pean Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Min­is­ter for Jus­tice, Cul­ture and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Owen Bon­nici yes­ter­day pre­sented a let­ter to Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sioner for Jus­tice, Con­sumers and Gen­der Equal­ity Věra Jourová by which Malta no­ti­fied its in­ten­tion to par­tic­i­pate in the EPPO, the Eu­ro­pean Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice.

Min­is­ter Bon­nici pre­sented the let­ter dur­ing a meet­ing held yes­ter­day morn­ing with Com­mis­sioner Jourová at the min­istry.

In the let­ter, Min­is­ter Bon­nici states that Malta recog­nises that the es­tab­lish­ment of the EPPO is a ma­jor development for safe­guard­ing the eco­nomic in­ter­ests of the Eu­ro­pean Union and en­sures that union funds are em­ployed for the achieve­ment of the so­cial and eco­nomic pur­poses for which they are in­tended.

The let­ter also says that the Gov­ern­ment of Malta is con­fi­dent that fur­ther co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the work of the EPPO, Europol, Euro­just, the Eu­ro­pean Ju­di­cial Net­work and other com­mu­nity in­sti­tu­tions and agen­cies will en­sure pro­gres­sion to a higher level of po­lice and ju­di­cial co­op­er­a­tion in Eu­rope to the ben­e­fit of jus­tice, peace and se­cu­rity.

The EPPO’s ex­clu­sive task is to in­ves­ti­gate and pros­e­cute crimes af­fect­ing the EU bud­get and, where rel­e­vant, bring them to judge­ment in the mem­ber states’ courts.

The gov­ern­ment had an­nounced its in­ten­tion to join the EPPO last March, when Bon­nici in­formed his fel­low EU jus­tice min­is­ters that Malta was to for­mally sub­mit its in­ter­est in join­ing. That came to fruition yes­ter­day.

In 2013, Malta had de­cided to opt out of the Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion ini­tia­tive aimed at im­prov­ing the pros­e­cu­tion of crim­i­nals who de­fraud EU tax­pay­ers by re­in­forc­ing the pro­ce­dural guar­an­tees of OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud of­fice.

Bon­nici, then a par­lia­men­tary sec­re­tary, had told Par­lia­ment’s For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee at the time that the gov­ern­ment was in favour of the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the EPPO, as long as the func­tions of the at­tor­ney gen­eral would not be weak­ened as a re­sult.

Short of sign­ing on to the EPPO, only na­tional au­thor­i­ties can in­ves­ti­gate and pros­e­cute EU fraud. Their com­pe­tences stop at their na­tional bor­ders. Ex­ist­ing Union bod­ies (such as OLAF, Euro­just and Europol) do not have, and can­not be given, the man­date to con­duct crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

The EPPO fills this in­sti­tu­tional gap, and has ex­clu­sive and EUwide ju­ris­dic­tion to deal with sus­pi­cions of crim­i­nal be­hav­iour fall­ing within its re­mit.

The EPPO is headed by a Eu­ro­pean Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tor. Its in­ves­ti­ga­tions are car­ried out by Eu­ro­pean Del­e­gated Pros­e­cu­tors lo­cated in each par­tic­i­pat­ing mem­ber state. The num­ber of these del­e­gated pros­e­cu­tors will be left to mem­ber states, but they should have at least one.

The EPPO pools the in­ves­tiga­tive and pros­e­cu­to­rial re­sources of the mem­ber states and has uni­form in­ves­tiga­tive pow­ers through­out the Union, based on and in­te­grated into the na­tional le­gal sys­tems of the mem­ber states.

In­ves­ti­ga­tion mea­sures that touch mostly on fun­da­men­tal rights such as tele­phone in­ter­cep­tion will need prior au­tho­ri­sa­tion by a na­tional court and the EPPO’s in­ves­ti­ga­tions will be sub­ject to ju­di­cial re­view by the na­tional courts.

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