Gozo drugs case | Trafficker jailed 18 months, girl who retracted statement to be investigated for perjury

Accused in trafficking case that sparked inquiry into ministerial interference jailed for 18 months, girlfriend will be investigated for perjury

Matthew Agius
27 September 2017, 3:00pm
Kevin Vella, left, was jailed 18 months for cocaine trafficking, while Magistrate Joe Mifsud ordered that Zael Vella be investigated for perjury
Kevin Vella, left, was jailed 18 months for cocaine trafficking, while Magistrate Joe Mifsud ordered that Zael Vella be investigated for perjury
The accused in the Gozo drugs trafficking case that in 2016 sparked an inquiry into accusations of political interference, have been jailed for cocaine trafficking.

Kevin Vella, 20 of Victoria, Gozo, was jailed for trafficking cocaine at a Gozo party at Mgarr ix-Xini in June 2013, and his girlfriend Zael Vella is to be investigated for perjury over the retraction of her initial police statement.

The case had sparked an investigation by MaltaToday into allegations that relatives of the accused had met two ministers at the Gozo ministry, to discuss the case. A government inquiry, discredited by the Nationalist Party at the time, found no proof of interference.

GOZO DRUGS CASE Timeline of allegations of political interference

Vella was arrested after police officers on a CID surveillance operation saw two men carrying the motionless body of Zael Vella uphill.

Vella had refused an offer of medical assistance from an onsite emergency medical team, instead choosing to carry Zael Vella up the hill in the dark. Police saw him take Zael Vella into a dark rural passage up to a dirt road in the Ta’ Cenc area. A lookout who then spotted the officers, escaped in a car parked nearby.

As CID personnel approached Vella’s vehicle, Kevin Vella immediately refused their assistance and rushed into the driver’s seat. He then pulled a plastic bag out his right pocket, and tried to open the driver’s door to throw the bag out in the dark, rural surroundings. But he was topped by the police, who intercepted the small bag carrying nine small sachets of cocaine.

Kevin Vella denied owning the drugs, saying the bag had been tossed there by the other individual being chased up the road by the police.

In her police statement, Zael Vella later mentioned Chris ‘il-Barri’ Vella, Mark ‘iz-Zuzu’, Samuel Sillatto and George Attard, whom she said Kevin Vella would give free drugs to.

But she later told the inquiring magistrate that she was retracting this part of her statement.

Magistrate demands perjury investigation

In 2013, Zael Vella was conditionally discharged for six months for her part in the crime after police declared that she had cooperated fully with the investigation and was eligible for a reduction in punishment.

But in a mammoth 108-page judgment, Magistrate Joseph Mifsud was clearly not impressed by Zael Vella’s attempts at twisting the facts, noting that she had attempted to discredit her initial police statement, which had been confirmed under oath before the inquiring magistrate.

The court was particularly surprised at the defence’s declaration that Zael had “not taken an oath over everything”.

Mifsud said jurisprudence had established that if a witness retracts part of his or her sworn declaration when giving testimony or being cross-examined, this did not mean that the declaration could no longer be taken as evidence against the accused, pointing out that a judge could still reach the conclusion that the truth lies in the sworn statement and not courtroom testimony.

Mifsud said he was convinced the girl had only been telling the truth in the statement taken immediately after her arrest, and that she had then tried to explain away her account in subsequent sittings by saying she had still been hungover at the time.

The details given in the statement did not correspond to a person who was not in her right mind, and had been taken 10 hours after her arrest after her hangover had passed, the court said.

Mifsud concluded that Zael Vella had seen Kevin Vella while under the effect of cocaine, as confirmed in her initial statement, and that he had trafficked drugs for a time as well as shared ecstasy pills and cannabis joints with her for free.

Mifsud said he did not believe Kevin Vella’s account of how the cocaine had ended up in his car, namely that a person chased by the police had tossed the cocaine into his car as he ran past it.

The court said the body of evidence all pointed to Kevin Vella’s guilt on the trafficking and aggravated possession charge and jailed him for 18 months, as well as fining him €1,000.

“The scourge of drugs continues to spread in forms and dimensions that are frightening; sustained by a filthy market that knows no national or continental frontiers. This means the danger to young adults and adolescents continues to grow. Drugs are evil and in the face of evil, one cannot surrender or compromise.”

Magistrate Mifsud also ordered the Commissioner of Police to investigate Zael Vella on suspicion that she had given false testimony and to prosecute if this is found to be true. He also gave instructions for the criminal investigation of the individuals mentioned by the girl in her initial statement and to immediately prosecute them if necessary.

Inspector Bernard Charles Spiteri prosecuted. Lawyer Joe Giglio was defence counsel.

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