Guns, gold, cars and ‘power’: how police hit a major drug supply network

Social media tells the story of Joseph Brignone, found in possession of drugs and weapons, and his love of Mercedes cars

Josef Zammit il-Marozz and Joseph Brignone (centre)
Josef Zammit il-Marozz and Joseph Brignone (centre)

Joseph Brignone stepped inside the courtroom as an unemployed man, but the list of cars he owned belied his supposed modest living.

Arrested by police on 25 April while driving a Mitsubishi Pajero, Brignone, 31, was charged with the illegal possession of drugs, weapons and money laundering. He has pleaded not guilty and the compilation of evidence is ongoing.

Along with Brignone, the police also arrested his sister, Annalise Brignone, 34.

Lengthy searches carried out at two Bormla residences and garages in Fgura and Marsaskala yielded drugs, weapons, thousands in cash, and several cars and motorbikes presumably bought with the proceeds of the drug business.

Among the cars were two Mercedes E63 AMG – luxury cars with powerful engines that can be bought second hand at a rough €60,000 each.

Josef Zammit ‘il-Marozz’
Josef Zammit ‘il-Marozz’
Joseph Brignone
Joseph Brignone

Power and tops: cocaine, cannabis, synthetics and heroin

Police sources told MaltaToday that Brignone and his cousin, Josef Zammit, nicknamed Marozz, ran a major drug supply ring in the south-east.

Zammit, 28, was arrested by the police on 10 May and has been charged with the illegal possession of drugs, weapons and money laundering. He was also charged with having sexual activity with a minor – his 15-year-old girlfriend.

Zammit has denied the charges and the compilation of evidence is ongoing.

Both from Bormla, the cousins were allegedly the major suppliers of cocaine, cannabis, heroin and synthetic drugs in Cottonera, Żabbar, Fgura, Żejtun and Marsaskala, according to the sources.

In court, it emerged that Brignone was under police surveillance for weeks, with a source saying it was important to follow the movements of the cousins to be able to track down the properties they operated from.

The pair flaunted their wealth on social media, peppering their statuses with the words ‘power’ and ‘tops’.

Brignone’s Facebook page runs under the name ‘Brignone Power’. Over here he flaunted the power of his two Mercedes cars, going as far as posting short video clips of himself revving up the engine and putting it to test on the streets.

Cars and gold: ‘Welcome home’

A week before his arrest, Brignone proudly ‘welcomed’ his new grey Mercedes to the collection. “Welcome home to your sister #E63 #V8 #AnotherOneToTheList,” he wrote on Facebook, to applause and well wishes from friends.

But his audacity was also on display when he posted a photo on Facebook posing with a rifle at home, and a short video on Instagram of himself shooting at a road sign with a pistol while driving one of his cars.

The shooting incident is now under investigation by the police.

In a handful of years, Brignone went from owning a Renault Megane to driving top-of-the-range cars that no person on unemployment benefits could ever afford.

A parallel story also played out on social media. Brignone’s cousin, Marozz, also flaunted his wealth on his Facebook wall.

Zammit owns a 2007 second-hand black Corvette Z06 worth almost €40,000 and can be seen posing with a BMW 5-Series and an Audi A5 on separate occasions.

In other flashes of wealth, Zammit “welcomed home” an 18-carat gold Rolex watch with 24-carat diamonds, to which Brignone proudly replied: “Proset kuginn top.”

Zammit also flaunted a gold bracelet, which he claimed was worth €3,500 with his nickname embossed on it.

A mugging: ‘Sleep in a hotel… you, poor souls’

At Brignone’s house in a Bormla alley, police also found the place wired with CCTV cameras.

Last January, Brignone sustained facial injuries when he was assaulted and robbed at his house by a group of people. Thousands in cash and gold were stolen.

He reacted to the robbery by taking to Facebook, mocking his aggressors for being able to “sleep in a hotel” on the back of someone else’s misfortune. “You thought that you would leave me emptyhanded because you stole the gold and money… as if, you, poor souls,” he wrote defiantly.

But the man is not alien to trouble. In 2018, Brignone and his father Emanuel alleged that a kiosk owner, Joseph Ellul, had tried to kill them when he drove his vehicle towards them in two separate incidents.

Weapons found at Brignone
Weapons found at Brignone

‘Stop giving drugs to my son’

Ellul admitted in court of driving up to Joseph Brignone, while he was in his BMW, offending him and telling him to stop selling synthetic drugs to his son.

Ellul was acquitted of attempted murder because of lack of proof, but found guilty of causing damage to Brignone’s BMW 5-Series car.

But significantly, the court also ordered that Brignone, his sister Annalise and her boyfriend Steve Ellul be investigated for perjury, over testimony they gave to try and cover up for the fact that Brignone was driving the BMW without having a driving licence.

The car was registered on Steve Ellul but was being used by his girlfriend’s brother as amply demonstrated by the multiple photos of this BMW with number plate MTG 490, posted on Brignone’s Facebook wall.

The recent arrest of the cousins was the third in a row, involving people from Bormla. Before Brignone’s arrest, the police had also arrested two men in their 20s, who were caught with drugs. However, these two have not yet been charged.

Brignone and Zammit had a major drug business going on that helped them reel in the money that was laundered in expensive cars, gold and other luxuries, which, however, contrasted with the modest surroundings where they continued to live.

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