Man in love triangle cleared of stealing wife's passport to holiday with girlfriend

A Libyan man has been cleared of using his wife’s stolen passport to leave Malta with his girlfriend after a court noted that not enough evidence was submitted 

A Libyan man has been cleared of using his wife’s stolen passport to leave Malta with his girlfriend after a court noted that the only evidence submitted by the prosecution was a written statement by the man’s estranged wife, who had refused to return to Malta to testify against him.

38-year-old Alturouq Ali Mohammed Ali had been charged on 9 September last year, with stealing and being in possession of a falsified passport.

In his judgment acquitting the accused, Magistrate Victor Axiak observed that the prosecution had brought no witnesses and had instead only exhibited a statement by the accused’s wife, the same person who had filed a police report at the Hamrun police station, informing the police that her husband had stolen her passport so that he, his girlfriend and their daughter could leave Malta.

Lawyer Mario Mifsud, appearing as defence counsel to Ali, had objected to the admissibility of this statement, on the grounds that there was no opportunity to cross-examine the person making the allegation.

On 29 October, after both sides had exhibited their evidence, the court had decreed that, as the woman had not been produced as a witness, her written declaration had to be expunged from the evidence. 

The court said it had done so not least because the only point of having an unsworn written statement was to allow the Prosecution a point of reference for controlling its witness when this person comes to testify in court, and not as a standalone piece of evidence. 

“Once the person who released the statement to the police was not produced as a witness, something which the Prosecution could have done till the very end of the evidence gathering…therefore this declaration had no relevance to the case at hand,” ruled the magistrate.

The accused had also released a statement to the police in which he explained that he had planned to go on a week’s holiday to Antwerp with his daughter. His girlfriend, who had helped book the tickets, had gone with him to the airport and it was there that she informed him that she was coming with him. They were arrested by the Belgian police some days later.

He had claimed to the police that he had told his wife that they were going abroad and that he had not realised that his girlfriend was going to use his wife’s passport. On the other hand, his wife had told the police that he was going to take their daughter to the playground, something which Ali denied. Ali had also told the police that his girlfriend was going to come to Malta and tell the court that she had taken the woman’s passport from his car.

Ali opted not to testify, as was his right, and instead summoned his girlfriend Doghmi Nezha, who had made use of the stolen documents. Nezha is serving a prison sentence after being found guilty, in separate proceedings, of stealing the documents in question, amongst other things.

In October 2020, Nezha was jailed after she had admitted to having taken the documents herself from the accused’s car. She said she had stolen three passports in total: the accused’s, his daughter’s and his wife’s. Her intention was to use the wife’s passport to go on holiday with Ali and his daughter while pretending to be his wife. She had booked the tickets using the accused’s credit card, behind his back, after being given the card to purchase some items for herself.

The accused, who still lived with his wife, would sometimes visit Nezha’s home and then leave, she said. Nezha told the court that on the morning of the flight, she had surprised him with the travel plans and that they had then arranged to travel separately to the airport. She had also booked accommodation for the stay from the accused’s mobile phone and that the man did not know how to read English.

Magistrate Axiak began his considerations on the case by saying that he did not believe this account at all, pointing to inconsistencies and contradictions with the account of the accused.

However, as the accused’s wife had left Malta at an early stage of the proceedings and had resisted attempts made by the Maltese police to contact her, through no fault of the prosecution, there was no evidence to convict the man, the magistrate said.

The best evidence of the accused would have been the testimony of the man’s wife, said the court, but noted that she could not be produced as a witness as she had lost all interest in the case.

The court said it had to decide on the basis of the evidence and charges brought before it. The accused was not accused of helping Nezha to leave Malta with someone else’s identity documents, said the court, but only the accusation of their theft and the transferring the documents in question to a third party.

“The court has before it only the statement of the accused and the testimony of Doghmi Nezha which is lacking in the necessary credibility to be of use to the court in its appreciation of the facts.”

The court had no conclusive evidence that the accused had transferred his wife’s documents to Nezha or that he had stolen them. Indeed the first charge presumed that he had the documents in his possession before transferring them to Nezha, which contradicted the other charge, that of theft.

For these reasons, the court said it could not find Ali guilty and cleared him of all charges.

Lawyer Mario Mifsud was defence counsel.

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