Man accused of using stolen cab after stealing cash from confectionery

CCTV had captured a cab driven by the accused stopping outside the shop, with the driver then entering the establishment

File photo
File photo

Car dealership employee Vince Cucciardi, 45, of Qormi, appeared in the dock before magistrate Victor Axiak this afternoon, accused of aggravated theft and criminal damage.

He was also charged with stealing a car from Zebbug and driving without a licence or insurance.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Inspector Andrew Agius, prosecuting, told the court how the police had received a report of a break-in and theft from a confectionery in Naxxar on 15 October. Four to five thousand euros in cash and several items had allegedly been stolen, he said.

Investigators soon noticed that CCTV had captured a cab driven by the accused stopping outside the shop, with the driver then entering the establishment.

The police identified the man captured in the footage as Cucciardi and a warrant for his arrest was then issued by the duty magistrate.

Inspector Agius explained that the stolen cab was later found in the vicinity of Cucciardi’s residence. A search of the man’s home returned a cap and jacket similar to the ones worn by the thief, as well as a crowbar similar to that used in the break-in.

Defence lawyer Noel Bianco requested bail, with the request being objected to by the prosecution. The lawyer explained to the court how his client was due to start a drug rehabilitation programme this week. Cucciardi was not going to leave the islands, said the lawyer, adding that the inspector had told him that there were no civilian witnesses on the prosecution side.

Cucciardi had been sentenced to probation in a previous case and would “miss the boat” were he to be remanded in custody, submitted the lawyer.

Inspector Agius justified his objection to bail, telling the court that there were a number of victims who were yet to testify. The car had been stolen from a mechanic, he said, and the owners of the confectionery had not yet given evidence. Additionally, there was more evidence yet to be collected, the inspector submitted.

Bianco told the court that the stolen car had been left in the street with the key in the ignition.

The prosecution raised the spectre of the accused attempting to suborn witnesses, adding that the objects which had been stolen, besides the cash, had not been recovered.

Glancing at the man’s criminal record, the magistrate noted that the accused had most recently been jailed for 9 months in 2013, but Bianco stressed that the accused was prepared to submit to any condition imposed by the court. Drug rehabilitation would be more beneficial to the accused than a stint in preventive custody, he argued.

The court upheld the request to release Cucciardi on bail, but not after warning him not to attempt to speak to anyone connected to this case. He was to sign a bail book twice a week, observe a curfew. The man was also ordered to steer clear of the towns of Qormi or Zebbug.

Bail was secured by a €500 deposit and a €10,000 personal guarantee. “If you breach any of these conditions you may not only lose this money but you could spend up to four months in prison, too,” warned the court.