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Jury star witness 'lied under oath,' jailed man says

Lawyers defending a man jailed for 13 years for conspiring to import cocaine argued that the witness testimony had been tainted with many inaccuracies, incorrect statements and lies that rendered it untrustworthy

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
18 August 2017, 10:43am
All the call logs exhibited in court show no contact ever having been made between Somylai and the appellant and that there are no common numbers between Somylai and the appellant
All the call logs exhibited in court show no contact ever having been made between Somylai and the appellant and that there are no common numbers between Somylai and the appellant
A Nigerian man is fighting his 13-year prison sentence and a fine of €30,000 he received for conspiring to import cocaine from the Netherlands in 2010, claiming that the jury's star witness lied under oath and that the verdict had been reached on the basis of assumptions.

Last month, Stephen Egbo, 39, of San Gwann, was found guilty by 7 votes to 2 of conspiring to import cocaine.

Egbo had been arrested during a controlled delivery operation and accused of planning to pick up drug mule Attila Somiyai, who arrived on a flight from Dusseldorf, to take delivery of over half a kilogramme of cocaine. Somiyai was jailed for nine years in 2014 for his part in the operation.

The basis of the appeal application, filed by lawyers Simon Micallef Stafrace and Marc Sant, is the argument that all the evidence tendered pointed to the fact that the appellant had no involvement in any drug conspiracy. It was only Somylai who indicates the appellant’s involvement, the lawyers said. “Put simply – it is only through Somylai’s testimony that the jurors could have found a guilty verdict.”

The lawyers argued that Somylai’s evidence had been tainted with many inaccuracies, incorrect statements and lies that rendered his entire testimony untrustworthy. They also reminded that Somylai’s testimony (and therefore his cooperation with the investigation) had led to his being handed a lesser prison sentence.

The appellant did not have any money to pay Somylai on his person, his defence points out. Nor did he have any money in his residence. Somylai had claimed to have been paid immediately for a previous delivery. “How was appellant going to pay Somylai if he had no money on him? This points to the appellant not being Somylai’s contact.”

A number of other questions were also raised about the security of the conviction: The police phone allegedly used by Somylai was never exhibited in Court and no recordings of the phonecall were made, which meant that the court had to take Somylai on his word as to what was said.

In addition to this, Somylai had spoken on the phone to his foreign contact in Hungarian and the police had no Hungarian translator present, argued his lawyers. “Apart from this being a massive defect in the controlled delivery once again we must believe Somylai as to what was said.”

Pointing out that Somilyai had told the court that he had recognised Egbo by his dreadlocks, Egbo's lawyers explained that the appellant’s hair had been “normal curly hair”at the time of the controlled delivery. It was only at the time of his testimony before the jury had the appellant changed his hairstyle to braided locks.

Somilyai had also claimed that Egbo was tall, but he had also said that the man hadn't exited the car, Egbo's lawyers argued.

All the call logs exhibited in court show no contact ever having been made between Somylai and the appellant and that there are no common numbers between Somylai and the appellant.

The defence emphasised that the call logs also showed that the appellant had received no calls or messages from Holland in the hour before 6pm, when he was alleged to have received instructions from the Dutch drug dealer. “This is a crucial fact since it negates all Somylai's statements.”

“What all this leads us to is that which is the most unacceptable in a court of law – that of having to make assumptions. It is this which, in the opinion of the appellant, led to the guilty verdict being delivered. The jurors reached their erroneous conclusion based upon assumptions and not facts.”

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...