Man cleared of stealing ‘Maksar’ brother’s Mercedes in mysterious case

A man on bail for murder has been cleared of stealing a Mercedes belonging to one of the ‘tal-Maksar’ brothers from Qormi

A man on bail for murder has been cleared of stealing a Mercedes belonging to one of the Maksar brothers from Qormi in a case which the court said raised more questions than it answered.

Ismael Habesh, from Libya, who is awaiting trial for the 2005 murder of Simon Grech and who has a number of other convictions for theft, slight injury and knife-crime dating back to the early 2000s, up till as recently as 2014, had been accused of the aggravated theft of Robert Agius’ Mercedes in 2017. Agius is one of the Maksar brothers.

During Habesh’s arraignment in 2017, the court had heard police explain how a Mercedes with three persons inside was held up at gunpoint by “foreign persons” armed with rifles who demanded €20,000 from the driver.

The court, presided by magistrate Joe Mifsud, said that the CCTV footage of the incident was clear and “very indicative” of what had happened.

In a judgment handed down yesterday, the court said it was clear that there was a “mysterious object” inside the car upon which the whole disagreement centred.

The footage showed a physical altercation between Habesh and Agius which was won by Habesh, who ended up in the possession of a firearm, after which Agius and his friends ran away “as fast as they could” into cover. Habesh subsequently gets into Agius’ car and drives away, returning to the scene after just a few minutes.

Robert Agius had opted not to testify so as not to incriminate himself and therefore it was not established whether or not he had consented to Habesh taking the car for the brief period.

But Agius had previously told the police that he had been driving his friend Norbert Cauchi and Cauchi’s girlfriend and had stopped to buy some water when suddenly Habesh got into the vehicle and started to drive it backwards and forwards.

“I asked him what he wanted and he told me, ‘Kevin told me you either give me €20,000 or I kill you!’” Habesh had allegedly said he already had the explosive, gelatine. The Libyan then got out of the car and pointed a pistol at Agius, claimed the alleged victim. The two men struggled with each other and Agius managed to disarm the assailant, he said. Agius said he had offered him €200 “to settle it there.” Habesh had two accomplices, Agius said, one waiting in a truck and another nearby. “When I escaped, Ismael started shouting ‘shoot this person! Shoot him!’” his statement to the police had read.

The court said that investigation raised more questions than it answered. “Why had the victim of an attempted theft offered money to ‘settle it there?’ Why had a person who stole a vehicle returned it straight to the victim, who then confirms this in court?”

In addition to this, the accused had not been armed, initially, and Agius had confirmed that he had a weapon in his car.

With regards to the breach of bail, the prosecution had not indicated which conditions Habesh had allegedly broken, who had imposed them and when. “This court expects that when the prosecution has a case like this, it should be precise in its charges and not leave any windows or ventilators for the accused to escape from because of negligence or rushing in drawing up the charges.”

Finding him guilty only of creating a disturbance, Magistrate Mifsud cleared Habesh of all the other charges. He was sentenced to a month in detention, from which time in preventive custody was to be deducted.

Lawyers Edward Gatt and Ishmael Psaila were defence counsel to Habesh.

Police inspectors Saviour Baldacchino and Roderick Agius prosecuted.