Three charged over organised crime, drug trafficking remanded in custody

Police surveillance on a St Julian’s residence, led police to an organised crime group which trafficked cocaine, cannabis and MDMA, while also carrying out money laundering activities

Hamza Gorai (background), Mohamed M. Ali Al Musrati (foreground) and Mohamed Ali Ahmed Elmushraty (inset) were charged on Friday evening
Hamza Gorai (background), Mohamed M. Ali Al Musrati (foreground) and Mohamed Ali Ahmed Elmushraty (inset) were charged on Friday evening

Three men have been remanded in custody on charges relating to organised crime.

St. Julians resident Hamza Gorai, 27, from Morocco appeared before magistrate Noel Bartolo on Friday evening, charged with possession of cocaine and cannabis in circumstances indicating that they were not intended for his personal use.

He was additionally charged with possession of MDMA, as well as forming part of, and participating, in an organised crime group.

Mohamed M. Ali Al Musrati, 37, from Libya residing in St. Julians was charged with trafficking cocaine and cannabis resin as well as possession of the two substances in circumstances denoting, they were not intended for his personal use. Al Musrati was also charged with forming part of a criminal organisation and actively participating in its criminal pursuits.  He was further charged with breaching previous bail conditions.

Mohamed Ali Ahmed Elmushraty
Mohamed Ali Ahmed Elmushraty

Boxer Mohamed Ali Ahmed Elmushraty, from Tunisia, was the last to be arraigned. He was charged with money laundering, tax evasion and participation in organised crime. Other charges relating to breaching bail conditions, unlicensed driving were also pressed. He was not charged with drug trafficking.

Testifying about the arrests of the first two individuals, Drugs Squad Inspector Mark Anthony Mercieca told presiding Magistrate Noel Bartolo that surveillance on several local and foreign suspects in relation to organised crime groups dealing in drugs.

Hamza Gorai (Photo: James Bianchi/mediatoday)
Hamza Gorai (Photo: James Bianchi/mediatoday)

Answering a question from the defence, the inspector said that approximately 300g of cannabis, 10g of cocaine and 10g of MDMA had been discovered in the residence.

A hive of activity ‘day and night’

The St. Julians apartment occupied by Gorai and Al Musrati had drawn suspicion as it was a hive of activity “day and night,” said the inspector. Police raided the property yesterday at around 5:45 and Gorai was found inside together with Mohammed Ali Al Musrati. Gorai and Al Musrati were taken into custody after being handed copies of the arrest warrant and letter of rights, he said.

Gorai, who told the court that he worked at a restaurant, pleaded not guilty to the charges. His bail request was denied on account of the nature of the charges and due to the possibility of tampering with evidence.

Al Musrati was arraigned next, with lawyer Franco Debono insisting on the court being told the exact time of arrest. This was captured on bodycam footage, said the inspector; replying that his notes said it happened at 5:55pm

Hamza Gorai (background) and Mohamed M. Ali Al Musrati (foreground) (Photo: James Bianchi/mediatoday)
Hamza Gorai (background) and Mohamed M. Ali Al Musrati (foreground) (Photo: James Bianchi/mediatoday)

The lawyer and police inspector had to be brought to order by the court after a shouting match erupted when Debono seemingly warned the police that he “hoped” evidence of the exact time of arrest would be exhibited at the next sitting. The court said that this point had already been addressed by the inspector’s sworn testimony and declared the arrest to be valid.

Bail was not requested at this stage, the defence saying that in view of the previous arraignment, it “didn’t want to waste more time.” Al Musrati was also remanded in custody.

31-year-old Tunisian Mohamed Ali Ahmed Elmushraty was the last to be arraigned on Friday evening.

He told the court that he resided at both Bugibba and Portomaso, describing himself as self-employed. A plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf by the defence.

Bail was requested by the defence and opposed by the prosecution.

Mohamed Ali Ahmed Elmushraty
Mohamed Ali Ahmed Elmushraty

The court was told that Elmushraty had also been surveilled by the police, who noted his luxurious lifestyle, expensive taste in clothes and several luxury vehicles.

He had been arrested on the strength of a warrant issued by a magistrate and had been arraigned within 48 hours. Among the officers carrying out the arrest was Deputy Commissioner of Police Sandro Gatt and officers from the Special Intervention Unit, said the inspector. Cash, jewellery and large amounts of expensive designer clothes and other valuables had been seized.

Defendant drove six luxury cars

The inspector said the defendant drove six luxury cars including a Mercedes G Wagon, a Mercedes 350, a Range Rover, a BMW X6, and a Mercedes C-Class had also been seized. None of them were registered in his name.

Agius Bonnici told the court that Elmushraty had also attempted to book a flight from Malta after his passport had been seized. The charges included organised crime, he reminded the court, arguing that there was also the risk he would commit further offences.

Debono observed that no drug-related charges were being pressed against the defendant, suggesting that the money laundering charges were “simply a fiscal issue.”

Accused being taken to court (Photo: James Bianchi/mediatoday)
Accused being taken to court (Photo: James Bianchi/mediatoday)

Inspector Mercieca replied that during the three-month surveillance operation which preceded the arrest, the defendant had featured prominently in drug trafficking circles, “some of whom had already been arrested and others yet to be arrested.” He had also spent money which had not been declared to the Maltese authorities - tax evasion and participation in the drug trafficking ring.

An animated Debono shouted at the inspector and Agius Bonnici, after the prosecutor objected to the lawyer’s interruptions, accusing the prosecutor of suggesting answers to the inspector while he was testifying under oath.

After order was restored, Debono asked whether drug trafficking was the predicate offence leading to the money laundering charges.

The defendant was being charged with forming part of an organised crime group that was involved in drug trafficking and money laundering, replied the inspector.

Debono submitted that if Elmushraty had “so many riches in Malta”, this meant that he had strong ties. He had lived here for nine years, added the lawyer. The defendant only had one previous conviction, Debono said, arguing that all he had heard in this case so far was that the man lived beyond his means and was being charged with tax evasion. “Where is the organised crime?” asked the lawyer, calling it a “gratuitous accusation.”

Agius Bonnici pointed out that the defendant had posted photos of himself on Instagram, showing him outside, socialising and drinking in violation of his bail conditions. The predicate offence was involvement in organised crime, added the prosecutor.

Police Inspectors Mark Anthony Mercieca, Alfredo Mangion and Tomjoe Farrugia are prosecuting. Prosecutors Antoine Agius Bonnici and Dejan Darmanin represented the Office of the Attorney General in the prosecution of Mohamed Ali Ahmed Elmushraty.

Lawyers Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri and Francesca Zarb are defence counsel to the defendants.