Rabat kidnap: Court takes action against two defendants over second no-show

Tyson Grech will be brought to his next sitting under arrest and Jeremy Borg must present a medical certificate within 24 hours after the two failed to turn up in court on Thursday

Jeremy Borg (top left), Burton Azzopardi (bottom left), Thorne Mangion (middle), Tyson Grech and Christian Borg (far right) were all charged with the abduction of a man in Rabat
Jeremy Borg (top left), Burton Azzopardi (bottom left), Thorne Mangion (middle), Tyson Grech and Christian Borg (far right) were all charged with the abduction of a man in Rabat

Two of the five men accused of kidnapping and interrogating a panel beater in January 2022 have once again failed to turn up in court, as the compilation of evidence against them continued.

Christian Borg, Tyson Grech, Jeremy Borg, Luke Milton, Thorne Mangion and Burton Azzopardi stand charged in connection with the 21 January abduction of Carlos Schembri and with severely beating him. All five have denied the charges.

Schembri had reported being bundled into a vehicle, where he was beaten and threatened with mutilation and rape over the alleged theft of a van. He managed to escape and report the matter to the police.

The kidnap came after the owner of Princess Garage, Christian Borg, and its director Joseph Camenzuli had filed a police report after finding parts stolen from one of their vans in a garage in Marsaskala.

Magistrate Monica Vella fined Tyson Grech €150 and ordered that he be brought for the next sitting under arrest, after his lawyers told the court that he was “stuck at work.”

Jeremy Borg also did not appear today, his lawyer informing the court that he was sick, although no medical certificate was forthcoming.

The court said that Grech’s excuse was not acceptable and that court sittings should take precedence over work, pointing out that the defendant had been notified in person, in the courtroom during the last sitting. Borg was ordered to present a medical certificate within 24 hours.

This was not the first time that these two particular defendants had failed to attend sittings in their compilation of evidence. In March 2022, Grech and Borg were fined for doing the same thing, narrowly avoided being arrested. The court had initially ordered their arrest, but rescinded the arrest warrant after the pair appeared in court late.

Only two witnesses testified today, both of them police officers. The first, a constable from the scene of crime team, explained how he had been dispatched to examine two cars in a field at Triq Benghajsa Birzebbuga on 29 October 2022.

The officers had proceeded to photograph the vehicles -a blue Mercedes Sprinter and a white Renault Master van - before lifting fingerprints and DNA samples from the vehicles.

A bottle of Heineken beer was found in the Mercedes’ driver's side door.

The second witness was a constable from the Rahal Gdid police station who had been detailed to guard the two vehicles which he had been told were thought to have been used in the kidnapping.

The Mercedes had a dent on the front passenger side, he recalled. Joseph Camenzuli and Christian Borg were present for the forensic examination of the vehicles, which were later towed to the police compound. The two men had left before the cars were towed, he said.

Prosecutor Francesco Refalo from the Office of the Attorney General asked the court to appoint an expert to carry out comparative analysis of the accused’s fingerprints and DNA with the forensic evidence collected from the vehicles.  No magisterial inquiry had been appointed at the time and so this evidence had not been collected, explained the prosecutor.

The van, which had no number plates, was still sealed and had not been opened, he added, as it could not be unlocked. There was also no indication as to the van’s ownership, said the prosecutor. 

The court this morning issued an order that the van be accessed, if necessary forced open, in the presence of the police inspector and the defendants, to allow for the collection of forensic evidence from its interior by a court expert.

No further witnesses testified today and the acts of the case were sent back to the AG for the identification of any further evidence the court could order the collection of.

The case was adjourned to July.

Lawyers Stephen Tonna Lowell, Gianluca Caruana Curran and Giannella De Marco are representing Christian Borg. Tyson Grech is being assisted by lawyers Franco Debono, Francesca Zarb and Jason Grima. 

Grima is also representing Jeremy Borg in the proceedings. Zarb and Debono are also assisting Burton Azzopardi. Lawyers Stefano Filletti  and Matthew Xuereb are Luke Milton’s defence counsel. Thorne Mangion is being represented by lawyers Michael Sciriha and Roberto Spiteri.

Police Inspector Roderick Attard is prosecuting, together with lawyer Francesco Refalo from the Office of the Attorney General.

Lawyer Sean Zammit is assisting the parte civile Carlos Schembri.