The Maltese police force should be empowered to wiretap people when investigating corruption and other forms of serious crime and this evidence should be admissible in court, according to an expert report by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).
“The investigation and prosecution of corruption will often require the use of special investigative techniques because of its eminently secretive nature,” GRECO said in its report. “The on-site discussions showed that this subject-matter remains another weakness of Malta’s criminal justice system, which could contribute to explain the lack of results with regard to cases involving people in top executive functions.”
As it stands, wiretapping is conducted by the Malta Security Services and regulated by the Security Services Act, which was last amended in 1997.
The law allows for broad discretion of the Prime Minister and the Home Affairs Minister with regards the use of their techniques.
The Security Services are supervised by a commissioner, who is appointed by and reports to the Prime Minister, and a Security Committee composed of the Prime Minister, the Opposition leader and two other government members.
Warrants for special investigative techniques are issued by the minister, who can also modify them at any time. GRECO was unable to ascertain whether information gathered through these techniques can be used as our evidence or only for intelligence purposes.
“In parallel, new trends have appeared concerning the use of data traffic,” GRECO said. “We note that the current situation remains over the years a source of controversies and more than ever, Malta needs to provide for a proper system of checks and balance, as well as a balance between the needs of an effective fight against corruption (and other forms of serious crime) and the preservation of fundamental rights.”
“GRECO recommends that legislation be issued giving criminal investigation bodies the authority to seek and use special investigative techniques (such as wiretaps and other similar measures) in the investigation of corruption offences, empowering the judicial authority to authorise their use, and making the evidence obtained thereby admissible in court, while respecting the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and that it be made clear to all authorities involved in the investigation of corruption that the evidence lawfully obtained by such means is admissible evidence in court.”