Pietà man remanded in custody over spate of vending machine thefts

Police covert surveillance operation leads to arrest of man charged with stealing from vending machines ­­

A man from Pieta has been remanded in custody after being charged with a spate of thefts from vending machines which were occurring on a nightly basis.

Inspectors Kevin Pulis and Gabriel Micallef charged 45-year-old Kevin Azzopardi with several counts of aggravated theft. They told magistrate Ian Farrugia that in the last few weeks, the Valletta police station had noticed a spike in reports of a certain type of theft from vending machines and had made intensive efforts to identify the culprit.

The police had set up covert surveillance in areas where similar machines were situated and eventually arrested Azzopardi as the accused was forcing one such machine open, during the early hours of the morning.

Azzopardi pleaded not guilty. Lawyer Christopher Chircop, appearing as legal aid to the accused, requested bail for his client.

The prosecution objected, pointing out that the accused had been carrying out the thefts “night after night, theft after theft, from several localities.” The possibility of the accused tampering with evidence was also cited, as Azzopardi knew exactly who the victims were, having robbed them.

Chircop argued that there was no risk of tampering with evidence, as the victims had no reason to change their versions.  The lawyer reminded the court that the accused enjoyed the presumption of evidence at this stage, had strong ties to Malta as well as a fixed address. He submitted that the accused should be released from arrest under the conditions fixed by the court.

The magistrate, however, said he was denying bail for the reasons given by the prosecution.