Health centre disturbance leads to drug arrest

The police had been dispatched to Mosta Health Centre as a patient with no identification documents was causing havoc

The Mosta health centre
The Mosta health centre

A police call out to a disturbance at a health centre yesterday led to an arrest for aggravated drug possession, a court has been told.

Henry Onwaueabuchi, 30, from Nigeria, appeared in the dock before magistrate Lara Lanfranco this morning, charged with possession of cannabis grass and resin, as well as cocaine, in circumstances which denoted that they were not exclusively for his personal use.

He told the court that he lived at the St. Patrick Hotel in St. Julians and was unemployed.

Inspector Ryan Vella, prosecuting, told the court that on the 23rd December at 09:30am, the police had been dispatched to Mosta Health Centre as a patient with no identification documents was causing havoc.

Onwaueabuchi was frisked by the police and drugs were found on his person.

He was arrested on the spot. The substances were later weighed, said the inspector. The accused was carrying 0.23g of cannabis resin, 1.68g of cannabis grass and 3.7g of cocaine.

When asked by the police about his place of residence, he told them he was staying at a hotel room at St. Julians, but police making enquiries at the hotel were told that the room was being left vacant due to the pandemic.

Lawyer Charmaine Cherrett, legal aid to the accused, told the court that Onwaueabuchi had told the police that he was a drug user and had indicated a house party where he said he bought the drugs. This was not investigated, said the lawyer, explaining that the accused had been part of a group of people, and was not selling drugs by himself.

The inspector clarified that the house party mentioned was supposed to have occurred in the same hotel room where the accused claimed to reside. The accused had told the police that he had been sold the drugs in Paceville by a Serbian man, but gave no names.

The accused pleaded not guilty to the charges. His lawyer requested bail, which was opposed by the prosecution, who said the address he provided was the same hotel room that he was arrested in. Cherret asked the inspector if the police had accessed the room which was supposedly closed. They had spoken to the management, said the Inspector, but confirmed to the court that the police had not gone there.

The accused insisted that he had told the police that he was staying at the St. George Hotel, but the inspector said that during questioning the accused had claimed to be staying at the Dragonara hotel. He added that the accused had also mentioned other hotels.

Cherrett said that it was evident that there were other persons who had not been spoken to by the police. “We cannot rely on verbal information given through a phone call. This is a human being denied freedom,” she said.

The inspector clarified that the police had gone to the hotel and spoken to the manager, but did not check the room and had relied on what the manager told them.

The prosecution objected to bail, arguing that the accused was not trustworthy, having given a false address. Furthermore, he was unemployed, had no family in Malta, and there was a fear of him fleeing the country.

Magistrate Lanfranco, having heard the submissions on bail and having heard the objection of the prosecution in this respect, denied him bail, observing that at this point in time, the accused had failed to provide the court with a reliable and fixed residential address and did not appear to have sufficient ties to Malta.