Man jailed on human trafficking charges after selling passport

A man from Eritrea has been jailed on human trafficking charges after selling his passport

A man from Eritrea has been jailed on human trafficking charges after selling his passport.

Qawra resident Mohamad Hamed Mohamad, 40, was arraigned before magistrate Noel Bartolo after being arrested while reporting his passport to the police as being lost.

Inspector Karl Roberts explained to the court that on 11 September, an intra-Schengen documents check had identified a person travelling with a document that didn’t belong to him. That person, who was arraigned in court on Sunday, claimed to have bought it from the accused.

Roberts had informed the Qawra police station to advise them to be on the lookout for persons reporting stolen or lost documents. Coincidentally, the accused was there already, reporting the loss, said the inspector.

Mohamad was arrested shortly after. He explained to the police that the other person was supposed to use his document to travel and then mail it back to him.

The Eritrean was charged with assisting people in making an illegal entry into the Maltese islands, making a false declaration to the authorities and making a false police report.

Legal aid defence lawyer Ramon Bonett Sladden asked to approach the bench, where the case was discussed out of earshot of the public.

Some minutes later, Bonett Sladden entered a guilty plea on behalf of his client. The magistrate warned Mohamad that he could face up to five years in prison for the trafficking charges and gave him time to reconsider. The accused, however, confirmed his guilty plea.

In his submissions on punishment, Bonett Sladden made references to the Palermo convention, as well as legal authors and texts, saying that the intention of exploitation is needed in trafficking offences. This was absent in this case and had to be taken into account in awarding punishment, said the lawyer.

In the light of the accused’s admission, the court said it could not but find him guilty. Magistrate Bartolo, after taking into consideration the man’s early guilty plea, his cooperation with the police and his criminal record, jailed him for three years.

The defence gave notice of appeal.