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Three charged after Marsa drug raid

Three of the five persons arrested yesterday in a police raid on a stables in Marsa, have been arraigned in court

Matthew Agius
20 September 2017, 12:37pm
Stables in which some of the suspects were found caught fire during the raid, but the three persons inside it, as well as the animals were rescued, unharmed.
Stables in which some of the suspects were found caught fire during the raid, but the three persons inside it, as well as the animals were rescued, unharmed.
The five persons, whose ages vary between 22 and 39, had been found in possession of a kilogram of a substance suspected to be heroin during the raid, which was carried out by members of the Drugs Squad, the Special Intervention Unit, the Dogs Section and the District Police on a stables in Triq is-Serkin, Marsa.

The substance was found ready for trafficking, police said in a statement yesterday.

The stables in which some of the suspects were found caught fire during the raid, but the three persons inside it, as well as the animals were rescued, unharmed, from the blaze by police and CPD officers.

Inspector Gabriel Micallef arraigned horse-drawn cab driver Jason Borg, 39, from Birkirkara, on charges of aggravated possession of heroin, Nicholas Farrugia and Shana Farrugia, 22 and 25 from Cospicua and Hamrun respectively, on charges of aggravated possession of heroin and conspiracy to traffic the drug.

Arraigned first, Borg, the owner of the stables, pleaded not guilty to the charges and asked for bail. Inspector Micallef objected to the request, due to the serious nature of the charges.

But Lawyer Alfred Abela pointed out that the accused had already made a sworn statement before magistrate Aaron Bugeja.

“The problem is that while it is true that the things were found on his property, he didn’t know what they were. He is now being held in the same place as the persons he has implicated and is in danger. In no way can he tamper with evidence outside.”

“We are talking here about aggravated possession,” submitted Dalli. “Not trafficking or conspiracy to traffic. He was accused of aggravated possession because the police could not reach even suspicion that there was conspiracy.”

“We have before us, at most, a foot-soldier.” In his 39 years, the man had no previous run-ins with the law and will not abscond. In their objection to bail,  the police were not objecting as strongly as they might to bail, she observed.

Magistrate Audrey Demicoli released Borg on bail against a deposit of €2500 and a personal guarantee of €5000 and on condition that he sign a bail book every day.

Minutes later, stables assistant Nicholas and his girlfriend, Shana Farrugia, unemployed, were arraigned together, as tearful relatives looked on. Both pleaded not guilty. Bail was requested.

Inspector Micallef objected to bail, on the grounds of the gravity of the offence and the possibility of tampering with evidence. Debono asked whether the witnesses in question had released a sworn statement before the inquiring magistrate. They had.

It was easier to retract testimony in court than before an inquiring magistrate. “In an inquiry, you cannot retract a sworn statement without incurring criminal penalties for false oaths.”

He contested Shana’s involvement and protested her innocence “with all his strength.”

Azzopardi added that the issue was that if the court were to withhold bail, this would mean that the accused would never be released on bail, because witnesses have a right not to testify that persists until proceedings against them are over - and they can still choose not to testify.  Proceedings take a minimum of four years, added the lawyer.

“The testimony given under oath before a magisterial inquiry is standalone evidence that is entirely separate from whatever the witness says on the stand,” he said. “And every case is serious,” protested the lawyer. “When is he going to testify? We don’t know. So what, does this mean he is going to remain under arrest indefinitely?”

The court upheld the defence’s arguments, releasing Shana Farrugia and Nick Farrugia, who told the court that he did not have a valid ID card or a valid passport, from arrest under similar conditions, which included a curfew deposit €5000 and a personal guarantee of €5000.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi appeared for Nick Farrugia, while lawyer Franco Debono appeared on behalf of Shana Farrugia. Lawyers Veronique Dalli and Alfred Abela are appearing for Borg.

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