Man charged with stealing girlfriend's BMW, threatening her while on bail for sextortion

A 22-year-old man was denied bail after being charged with stealing his girlfriend’s car and threatening to kill her, while out on bail for prior charges relating to extortion, amongst other things

The 22-year-old was accused of stealing his girlfriend's BMW and threatening her not to ruin his bail
The 22-year-old was accused of stealing his girlfriend's BMW and threatening her not to ruin his bail

A man from Valletta has been remanded in custody, accused of stealing a BMW used by his girlfriend and misuse of electronic communications equipment.

The man, Simon Leyton Rachid, 22, was out on bail on a separate case in which he was accused of extorting a prior sexual partner.

Inspector Keith Xerri arraigned Rachid before Magistrate Gabriella Vella on Monday, accusing him of the aggravated theft of the car and the woman’s mobile phone.

Rachid, who told the court that he was currently unemployed but "used to be a taxi driver", was also accused of threatening the woman, misuse of electronic communications equipment, breaching the public peace and breaching three separate sets of bail conditions.

In one of the cases that Rachid had been on bail for, he and four others stand accused of extorting monthly payments from a man with whom he had frequent sexual encounters, starting in 2018, when he was 17-years-old. 

The court was told how the BMW’s owner had reported his car as having been stolen from St Julian’s. He had explained that the accused’s ex-girlfriend had been using the car at the time. When spoken to by the police, the woman explained that her partner at the time had probably taken it after the couple had argued.

The car was later spotted by the police, a few hours after the report had been filed, he said.

Rachid’s defence counsel, lawyer George Anton Buttigieg contested the validity of the arrest, arguing that the woman was the car’s real owner and had given him permission to use it that day.

The vehicle was hers, but was for some reason registered in the name of the person filing the report, said the lawyer.

He asked whether it was right to charge Rachid with theft “because of a disagreement between two other people,” arguing that the offence of theft did not subsist and that the arrest was not justified.

Replying to the lawyer, Inspector Xerri told the court that the police were in possession of screenshots of conversations where the woman had asked the accused to return the car to her.

Rachid had also been out of his house after a curfew which had been imposed as part of his other bail conditions, he said.

The magistrate pointed out that the charges also related to the theft of the woman’s iPhone and the misuse of telecommunications equipment. 

The court had also been told by the inspector that Rachid had sent messages to the woman, threatening to kill her if she “ruined his bail.”

Buttigieg retorted that there was no evidence exhibited to support this claim so far, earning him a rebuke from the magistrate, who told him that he could not expect the arraigning court to take the defence’s arguments at face value and not those of the prosecution too. “I must treat you both the same.”

The lawyer also argued that as the inspector had confirmed the mobile phone and the vehicle had since been returned to the woman and there was no reason to arrest him.

The inspector rebutted that it was the police who handed the stolen items back to the woman.

The court, after hearing the arguments from both sides, declared the arrest to be valid, after observing that the defence’s contestation of the arrest dealt more with the merits of the case, than issues pertaining to the validity or otherwise of the arrest.

A plea of not guilty was filed by the defendant. Buttigieg asked that his client be released on bail.

Inspector Xerri objected to the man’s release, on the grounds that the defendant had already been granted bail on more than one occasion, yet had still breached his curfew and had failed to sign his bail books. In addition to this there were civilian witnesses yet to testify, one of them being the woman who had been his girlfriend up till yesterday. 

The accused already had “two or three” previous convictions, despite his young age, added the inspector, also citing the risk that the man could interfere with witnesses or tamper with evidence.

The defence submitted that being charged while signing a bail book does not automatically make a person ineligible for bail. Pointing to the Maximilian Ciantar case, he said the court had held that the primary obligation of a person on bail is to appear for court sittings. 

The man’s criminal record was only relevant to the calibration of punishment, not whether bail is to be granted, he added.

Highlighting the fact that the man was being charged by the St Julians district police and not the Domestic Violence Unit, the lawyer argued that “we should not use domestic violence to make things appear worse than it is, when the case doesn’t deal with domestic violence.”

The court, however, pointed out that one of the charges related to threats against the accused’s then partner.

Rachid’s bail request was rejected and he was remanded in custody. The court also issued a two-year protection order in favour of the accused’s ex-girlfriend.