Man found with over 40 sachets of cocaine and heroin granted bail

The man was arrested at a police roadblock with over 40 sachets of drugs, two phones and €850 in cash

File photo
File photo

A man arrested at a police roadblock on Saturday night with over 40 sachets of drugs, two phones and €850 in cash has been released on bail.

He denied charges which include aggravated possession of cocaine and heroin.

Luqa resident Abdallah Al Badr, 27, from Syria was arraigned under arrest before magistrate Victor Axiak earlier today.

Inspector Ritienne Gauci, prosecuting, told the court how a police roadblock in Attard had stopped Al Badr’s Toyota. It was immediately noted that his driving licence had expired and that he had no insurance cover. A search of the car recovered a bag containing “between 40 and 50” sachets containing brown and white substances, she said, adding that the total weight of the substances was 35.7g.

The discovery is subject to a magisterial inquiry, the court was also told.

Answering a question asked by defence lawyer Franco Debono, the inspector confirmed that the accused had also informed the police that he was a cannabis user. In fact, the police had opted not to charge him over the small amount of cannabis that was also found in his possession, said the inspector.

Al Badr pleaded not guilty to the charges. The defence requested bail, which was objected to by the prosecution.

Debono submitted that the accused had lived in Malta for the past seven years with his wife and two children and had strong ties to the local community. No civilian witnesses were involved, he added.

Although he did not contest the validity of the man’s arrest, the lawyer stressed that there was a difference between a valid arrest and a valid arraignment under arrest, pointing to the need for guidelines on summonsing witnesses during the arraignment. It was time for a judicial pronouncement on valid arraignments under arrest, he said.

Debono pointed out that recent legislative developments in Malta’s drug laws had been aimed at emphasising treatment not imprisonment.

That the drugs were not exclusively intended for personal use was something that had to be proved by the prosecution, otherwise the charge would have to be downgraded to simple possession, said the lawyer, describing this type of crime as “open to interpretation.”

The court asked the inspector whether she agreed with the defence that this was a borderline case.

She replied that the drugs found were already divided into 40-50 separate sachets. The man was carrying €820 in cash and two mobile phones at the time of his arrest.

In his statement to the police Al Badr had said that he would occasionally use cannabis and cocaine. “But he was also found in possession of heroin.”

The magistrate asked the defence what it had to say about this, noting that at first glance, the heroin didn’t appear to have been for the defendant’s personal use.

“We are talking about a few grams,” Debono replied. “Every infringement is grave, but when placed on the spectrum of drug discoveries, this is one of the smaller ones.”

Inspector Gauci also informed the court that despite being registered as living in Zebbug, Al Badr actually resided at another address. The police inspector conceded, however, that there was no risk of him attempting to tamper with evidence or approach witnesses, as the evidence had already been preserved by the magisterial inquiry.

The defence seized on this point, arguing that the court also had the peace of mind that the evidence had already been collected.

The bail request was upheld, with the court observing that the accused had sufficient ties to Malta and that there was no risk of tampering with evidence.

Al Badr was ordered to sign a bail book twice a week and obey a curfew. Bail was secured by a deposit of €500 and personal guarantee of €5,000.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Francesca Zarb were defence counsel.