Paceville murder victim was stabbed 28 times over prostitution profits

The Paceville murder is connected to a dispute over an organised crime prostitution ring

A man killed in a Paceville brawl was stabbed 28 times during a fight over prostitution profits that lasted only two minutes, according to testimony given in court.

Joseff Rivas, a suspected member of a Romanian organized crime ring, died at Mater Dei Hospital after he was stabbed on December 5.

Ilie Constantin, Ionut Iulian Tanase, and Dan-Andrei Tanase are the three Romanian men who have been charged with his murder. They pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Kurt Zahra, a police inspector, testified before a magistrate on Wednesday that Rivas arrived in Malta on December 2, three days before the murder.

He traveled with two other people, who both left Malta on the day of the attack.

Rivas, who was a dual citizen of Romania and the United Kingdom, was designated as a "High-Value Target" by global intelligence agencies.

In a prior hearing, the court heard that surveillance footage from the street showed three men in a cafe when three more men approached them. There was a brief exchange of words, followed by a commotion involving the victim.

Inspector Zahra gave a timeline of events in court on Thursday. He explained that the three accused when to Big Gs Bar in St Julian’s at around 3:15pm, where they drank some tea or coffee.

Seven minutes later, Rivas and three other "large guys" crossed the street to go to the same bar.

Dan-Andrei Tanase, one of the accused, shook hands with one of the approaching males at 3.23 pm. Two minutes later, a commission erupted.

Rivas and the other men were pushed back by the rival group. One person grabbed a stool, while signage was used. Zahra said this all took place within a two-minute period.

He added that the reasons for the altercation was that there was a disagreement between the three accused and a man named Rasvan on how the earnings of a prostitution ring were to be divided.

One of the accused told authorities that they heard from a third source that Rivas had sent hitmen to kill them. Constantin had met them “a couple of days before” at Pender Gardens.

After hearing this, Tanase and his cousin bought knives from a souvenir shop nearby as they were afraid.

According to details in court, the accused were pimps that took 50% of the prostitute’s earnings, and from that money, passed on another 50% to Ravsan.

Ravsan knew the number of clients that were calling for sexual services, and was aware of the daily earnings being made. This bothered the accused, who decided to keep money for themselves.

Defence lawyer Arthur Azzopardi asked the inspector where the two men accompanying Rivas were. He said that they left Malta on the same day of the fight.

Meanwhile, the accused were set to leave Malta on December 16.

Defence lawyer Franco Debono asked which group had started the fight. Zahra said that Rivas’s group had first approached the accused, while the other group started the fight.

However, footage from the crime scene showed that both groups clashed.

At the end of the sitting, Magistrate Nadine Lia declared that there was enough prima facie evidence to indict the three accused.

Inspectors Kurt Zahra and Brian Xuereb prosecuted. Lawyers Kaylie Bonnett and Darlene Grima appeared on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General.

Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi, Jacob Magri, Franco Debono and Charmaine Cherrett were defence counsel.