Drug smuggler caught by sniffer dog sentenced to 14 years for importing 10kg of cannabis

The man pleaded guilty to aggravated possession of cannabis just as his trial by jury was set to begin

A man from Syracuse in Sicily has been jailed for 14 years and fined €28,000 after he admitted at trial to having imported 10kg of cannabis with the intention of trafficking it in his car in 2018. 

56-years-old Gaetano Campailla pleaded guilty to aggravated possession of cannabis this morning, as his trial by jury was about to begin.

His trial was scheduled to begin early on Monday morning, and potential jurors had been waiting for the jury selection process to start. But they were sent home by Mr. Justice Aaron Bugeja after the defence and the prosecution informed the judge that they reached a plea bargain. The Criminal Court did not object to the suggested sentence of imprisonment for 14 years.

Campnailla had been arrested during a routine check by the Customs Department’s Canine Unit, after a sniffer dog named "Sparky," which had joined the force just two months prior, indicated the presence of drugs. Although an initial search by officers found nothing, the dog continued to alert its handlers. The car was then taken to the Police garage where the drugs were found hidden in compartments in the car doors.

A 'fibre optic' camera showed the packets of cannabis hidden behind the door panels, which were then dismantled by the police. Inside the driver's side door and the upholstery of the two rear doors, a total of 10kg of cannabis were discovered.

Campailla had initially denied the charges, during his arraignment, but changed his plea before the jury was empanelled. The prosecution was led by Lawyers Kevin Valletta and Ilenia Abela. Campailla was represented by lawyer Simon Micallef Stafrace.