News | Sunday, 31 January 2010

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Soho ‘king’ Agius to file constitutional case

Labour MP José Herrera is expected to file a constitutional case to invoke the recently enacted legal notice on the right to legal assistance prior to interrogation.
Acting as defence counsel to Jean Agius, the former Soho landlord recently imprisoned over possession and conspiracy to traffic cocaine, Herrera said Agius’s sentence was “based on a police statement given at a time when he had not been granted the right to legal assistance. Besides, he was suffering from withdrawal symptoms during the time of the interrogation.”
The right to legal assistance had been previously approved in parliament in 2002 but never enacted by legal notice, until pressure by Nationalist backbencher Franco Debono pushed the Home Affairs and Justice Ministry into issuing the legal notice.
Herrera is now awaiting the outcome of a similar constitutional case, due to be concluded within a fortnight, that will determine whether to proceed with Agius’s own case.
“This has bearing because at the time my client was interrogated, the government had already recognised the right to legal assistance,” Herrera said. “Even though the law had not yet been implemented, this reinforces our thesis that we have a case.”
Asked to confirm rumours that Franco Debono would be joining forces with him on the case, Herrera said: “So far it’s just me. But I wouldn’t mind having him in on the case. He has not been involved in Jean Agius’s case so far, and he has not yet been approached either. But if he would want to come in, he’d be more than welcome. He believes in the issue. It wouldn’t be a bad idea.”
Agius had pleaded not guilty to drug charges in 2007 and was sentenced for five years and fined €9,320 over possession of 125g of cocaine, and conspiring to import and traffic in the drug in 2002. On appeal, he claimed the drug was for his exclusive use, and was still found guilty of conspiracy to traffic but with a reduced sentence of four years.
The former Soho landlord made a name for himself in the London nightclub district, migrating there in 1966, and eventually becoming the owner of 32 bars, restaurants and various striptease clubs over one square mile of the capital city. He famously quipped that he found it difficult to remember which establishments belonged to him.
Notoriously known as the ‘clip-joint king’ – the rip-off sex clubs – Agius is a great admirer of former prime minister Dom Mintoff. He proposed that a monument be erected in his honour, only to be turned down by Mintoff himself, saying he did not want to see pigeons, cats, and dogs excreting on it.

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