Updated | Victims identified accused as person they had paid to be smuggled into Italy, jury hears

A jury trying a man for people smuggling 11 years after he was charged, has heard how victims told the police that they had paid the accused to transport them to Italy

A jury trying a man for people smuggling has heard how victims had told the police that they had paid the accused to transport them to Italy.

The trial by jury of a 58-year-old Hadish Abayu from Ethiopia started today, 11 years after he was charged with smuggling 181 persons into Malta by sea on 25 September 2005.

Abayu had been charged on June 9, 2006 but had managed to abscond whilst out on bail. He was later arrested in Switzerland  and extradited to Malta in May 2016.

Presiding judge Madam Justice Edwina Grima and a panel of 11 jurors heard prosecutor Vincienne Vella explain how the smuggled persons had told police officers that they had paid Abayu to get themselves taken to Italy.

Vella told the court that, aside from the police officers who investigated the case, the prosecution would also be exhibiting the sworn testimony of the 181 immigrants in question.

Jurors heard Vella explain how Abayu had collected payment for the sea crossing from the victims, insisting that he had been working as part of a group of Libyan people smugglers.

Abayu, represented in these proceedings by lawyer Simon Micallef Stafrace, is denying the accusations.

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