Couple accused of importing synthetic drugs have bail confirmed on appeal

Court of Criminal Appeal grants bail to couple accused of importing a kilogram of synthetic drugs

The Court of Criminal Appeal has confirmed a decree granting bail to a couple accused of importing a kilogram of synthetic drugs.

Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera rejected an appeal filed by the Attorney General, asking for the revocation of bail granted to the accused.

The couple from Zurrieq, who have drug addiction problems, had been granted bail by Magistrate Josette Demicoli on charges which included the importation of the synthetic drugs.

Keith Vassallo, 35 and his wife Maria Cristina Vassallo, 28, had been arraigned separately last week after a police investigation spanning a number of days in which the couple were monitored.

On Tuesday, the Customs Department had intercepted a parcel addressed to the woman, containing the drugs.

A controlled delivery was carried out using a fake parcel and the accused were arrested after it was found in their kitchen. A search of their home returned more suspected drugs, thought to be heroin and cocaine. A magisterial inquiry into the find is underway, conducted by Magistrate Gabriella Vella.

The couple are accused of importation and possession in circumstances which indicated that the drugs were not exclusively for their personal use. They were also accused of doing so within 100 metres of a place where young people gather.  Keith Vassallo was also accused of recidivism.

Lawyers Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri and Francesca Zarb requested bail for the couple, which was strongly opposed by prosecuting inspectors Mark Merceica and Alfredo Mangion.

The defence argued that the evidence was already preserved in the acts of the inquiry and that the woman had a clean criminal record. Keith Vassallo’s previous conviction dates back to 2017 and was not for a serious offence, Debono argued. His place was surely not in prison, argued the lawyer, suggesting that the couple needed help and treatment for drug addiction.

The court of magistrates had upheld the defence’s requests and granted bail against a deposit of €7,000 and a personal guarantee of €16,000 for Keith Vassallo whilst Maria Cristina Vassallo was ordered to deposit €5,000 and provide a personal guarantee of €15,000.

In its decision on the Attorney General’s appeal, the judge ruled that she saw no reason to vary the decision given by the court of magistrates.