Man charged with insulting prosecutor while on bail for drug charges

A man, twice granted bail for drug-related charges in the past, remanded in custody after making an offensive gesture at one of the lawyers prosecuting him during a chance encounter at a Valletta bar

A man twice granted bail for drug-related charges in the past has been remanded in custody after making an offensive gesture at one of the lawyers prosecuting him during a chance encounter at a bar in Valletta.

26-year-old Josef Majri from Tarxien was already out on two separate sets of bail conditions in connection with ongoing criminal proceedings against him, at the time when the incident took place.

The first case relates to the discovery of 9kg of cannabis in his car back in 2019, the second dates back to 2021, when Majri and others were accused of laundering at least €21,000 of drug money by placing bets on sporting events.

Majri was back in the dock, this time before magistrate Noel Bartolo, on Friday afternoon, charged by Inspector Robert Azzopardi with having insulted lawyer Andrea Zammit just after midnight on Saturday, May 20.

The lawyer had been having a drink at an upmarket cocktail bar in Straight Street when he noticed the defendant standing across the bar, looking at him. Majri allegedly made a two-fingered gesture at the prosecutor, who later filed a police report about the incident.

Besides asking the court to bind Majri not to approach the prosecutor, together with the imposition of a protection order, the charges also requested the complete forfeiture of the man’s various bail guarantees, which amount to €18,000.

Inspector Azzopardi told the court that he had been informed of the incident by Zammit, with whom he had been prosecuting the defendant. Majri was in breach of his curfew. Zammit only knew Majri in the context of the court case, said the inspector. The defendant was seen on the bar’s CCTV, but the incident itself occurred in a blind spot not covered by the establishment’s cameras, the inspector said.

Lawyers Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri and Francesca Zarb represented the defendant in court this afternoon. Debono requested that the police report filed by Zammit be exhibited in order to make submissions on the validity of the arrest. Reading from the report, which had been filed on the Monday after the incident, Debono said “he saw him making a hand signal which appeared to mean the man recognised him, but at no time was he threatened.” It was only after Zammit returned home did it dawn on him that the man was Majri, who he was prosecuting.

Not guilty plea and bail requested.

The prosecution objected as the alleged victim was yet to testify and was not trustworthy.

He often signs his bail book outside the times specified in his bail conditions, said the inspector, adding that the bar footage proved that he had not been observing his curfew, which had been extended from 10pm to midnight.

Debono stressed his respect for all prosecuting officers and suggested that Zammit had filed the report solely for completeness' sake. 

Majri had a steady job in the film industry and his girlfriend was pregnant, added the lawyer. Debono argued that recently the law had been amended to allow the courts leeway in dealing with minor bail breaches, such as signing a bail book a little late. “Had it not been for the first two charges, I would have advised him to admit to the charges,” said the lawyer.

Even if a breach of bail was found, the punishment should not be a custodial sentence, submitted the defence.

The court, having heard the submissions, considered the circumstances of the case together with the defendant’s criminal record, rejected the request for bail, as it was not satisfied that Majri was trustworthy as well as in view of the offences he is accused of committing.