Diamonds International heist: modified blanks pistol and illegal shotgun used

Albanian robbers had used a modified blanks pistol and an illegal short-barrelled shotgun in their attempt to hold up a jeweller’s at Tigné Point in 2017

Danniel Muka, on his arrest for the Diamonds International heist. After being released on bail pending trial, Muka was involved in the home invasion that resulted in the double murder of Christian Pandolfino and Igor Macieowski
Danniel Muka, on his arrest for the Diamonds International heist. After being released on bail pending trial, Muka was involved in the home invasion that resulted in the double murder of Christian Pandolfino and Igor Macieowski

Albanian robbers had used a modified blanks pistol and an illegal short-barrelled shotgun in their attempt to hold up a jeweller’s at Tigné Point in 2017, a court expert has told the court hearing evidence against the accused men.

Artan Coku and Daniel Muka were arrested in connection with a hold-up at the Tigné Diamonds International jewellery outlet in October 2017. A third, Muka’s brother Begtash, was also later apprehended by the police in 2019.

Two people, including a security guard, were injured during the heist, after which the robbers escaped. Coku is believed to have been the getaway driver.

Armed men dressed in masks and wigs and reportedly wielding a shotgun, pistol, batons and axes, stormed into the Diamonds International store at Tigné Point on 5 October 2017. Two men and a woman, the shop’s manager, salesman and a shop assistant, were inside the outlet at the time of the incident. The shop assistant suffered slight injuries to his leg.

A senior security official on duty at Tigné Point had run to the outlet when he heard loud noises and disrupted the two men as they held the staff up at gunpoint and gathered jewellery from the display cases. He ended up receiving a head injury.

Daniel Muka was later released on bail and went on to be arrested and charged with the double murder of Christian Pandolfino and Ivor Maciejowski, which took place last year.

In a recently finalised report, a court-appointed firearms expert told the court hearing the compilation of evidence against the men over the jewellery heist that the firearms he was asked to examine: a Ricol 12 gauge pump action shotgun and a modified KIMAR Model 85 Auto were in “bad condition” and “very bad condition” respectively, but capable of functioning.
Shotguns with a barrel length of less than 450mm are prohibited under the Arms Act, noted the expert, therefore the importation into Malta of the shotgun in question was not legal. 13 shotgun cartridges were also recovered with the weapon in question.

The pistol had been manufactured in Italy and approved as a blank firing device only, but its barrel had been changed to allow it to fire 9mm ammunition. Before 2017, blank firing weapons were legally sold without licences in several countries. This led to a highly profitable black market in such pistols, once modified to fire live ammunition.

Five 9mm pistol rounds recovered by the police were also examined by the expert and found to be functional.

At the time of his arrest in August 2020, Daniel Muka had allegedly pulled out a handgun, pointed it at police officers and attempted to fire several times – although fortunately the weapon failed to fire.

The case continues. Inspectors James Grech and Mark Mercieca are prosecuting. Lawyer Noel Bianco is defence counsel.

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