Lilu King associates 'bombarded' witness with demands that he mislead the court during testimony

Witness had testified to having been approached by the defendants and told to mislead the court compiling evidence in the separate criminal case against Mohammed Ali Elmushrat ‘Lilu King’

Mohammed Ali Elmushrat ‘Lilu King’
Mohammed Ali Elmushrat ‘Lilu King’

A court has been told how two associates of Libyan boxer Mohammed Ali Elmushraty had bombarded a witness with text and voice messages on WhatsApp, asking to meet before his second court appearance.

Two Libyan men, Mohaned Ali Ahmed Massarati, 31 and Mahmoud Mustafa Mohammed Aldabah, 27, are accused of attempting to suborn a witness in ongoing court proceedings against Elmushrraty. They are also accused of recidivism.

The charges were issued after a witness had testified to having been approached by the defendants and told to mislead the court compiling evidence in the separate criminal case against Elmushraty, better known by his nickname “Lilu King,” who is accused of participation in organised crime, money laundering and tax evasion.

Inspector Tomjoe Farrugia from FCID took the witness stand before magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo. He said that during the compilation of evidence against Elmushraty, a witness had testified to receiving a WhatsApp from Massarati asking to meet the man allegedly suborned at the Valletta Waterfront.

He had testified to being told to claim that the Range Rover, registration number “Lilu King,” had been registered in the witness’ name and would only be used by him.

During his testimony the man was declared a hostile witness after prevaricating on the witness stand and was escorted out of the courtroom, while being kept in isolation. At that point, he had told Inspector Farrugia that he was afraid because he had been approached by family members of Elmushraty’s.

Moments later, the inspector had left the courtroom to call the next witness, Aldabah, to the stand. But upon leaving the courtroom, he was informed that Aldabah had just been arrested in view of the witness’ testimony.

Inspector Farrugia told the court that a number of voice messages and calls were sent to the witness by Masserati via WhatsApp. Masserati’s number was saved as “Lilu brother Holland” he said.

The witness had replied with the message “I will call you later”, which was followed by another flurry of missed calls.

He told the inspector that he had received an urgent voice message from Massarati asking to call him when he turned on his phone.

He exhibited electronic copies of the call records and messages in court.

The defendants had told the witness to perjure himself if asked about the ownership of the Range Rover, but he had replied that he could not do that because he would not be able to say where he got the money from.

The witness received two further calls from Masserati, saying “[name] call me.” Then a voice message. “Tomorrow at 10am we have a meeting with Franco at his office in Valletta. Call me to agree where to meet.”

That evening he had received three further voice calls which he didn’t answer. The next day he had rejected another call, messaging the defendant to say he would call back later. But immediately after he had sent that message, Masserati had tried to call him again, twice.

The witness had fended off more calls in the following days, the court was told.

On the eve of the sitting in Elmushraty’s case, the witness had received a voice message from Masserati, asking to meet, but the witness had replied that he couldn’t make it.

Eventually the meeting was set up, taking place at the Valletta waterfront.

Aldabah had consulted with a lawyer before his interrogation. He had told the police that he lived with a friend at St. Julians but didn’t know the address. He considered Elmushraty as a brother, the inspector recalled him as saying.

He did not answer when he was asked whether he had met Elmushraty or Masserati.

Neither had he replied when the police had asked whether the men had tried to influence his testimony, recalled the inspector, adding that the man had initially denied knowing who owned the Range Rover, but had later confirmed that it was owned by Elmushraty and used by another man.

He had also not answered questions about his Refugee Commission number which was different to that on his passport, said the inspector. The men had maintained their silence when asked whether they were aware of the fact that it was a criminal offence to try and influence court testimony.

Cross-examined by lawyer Charles Mercieca, the Inspector confirmed that there were no plans to prosecute the witness for perjury. “Neither currently nor in future. It did not emerge that he perjured himself at any time,” replied Inspector Farrugia.

The witness allegedly threatened also took the stand on Monday. He had been working in Malta for the past 25 years in the car business, he said.

“It was on the feast of June 7. Mohammed had called me to ask to meet me at the Waterfront at 7 or 8pm. “He told me to say that the car had been paid for by a company. I could not do that because I had already testified about it in court …,” said the witness. “The car was really bought in my name, but it was used by Mohammed Mushraty. The number plate is “Lilu King.”  It is registered to me.”

He said that he had also been asked to attend a meeting with “Dr. Franco” but had not done so.

At this point, the witness asked the court to ensure his safety. “I don’t want problems with anyone. When I was called, I testified, but… I’m not liking the whole case, nor that against Lilu.”

Cross-examined by Mercieca, he repeated that Elmushraty had told him to give false testimony about the vehicle.

“I told him that I had already testified about it and that everyone knows the car belongs to Mohammed [Elmushraty] and not just because of the number plate,” added the witness.

Lawyer Jacob Magri, who is also representing the defendants, suggested that the witness’ fear was due to the seriousness of the case he was testifying about.

“No,” replied the man, telling the court that he was serene. “The only thing is that the car is not mine. I am already facing another problem with the €11,000 in fines this car has collected.”

Answering another question from the lawyer, he said that he had only been involved with Masserati.

The witness said he was asking for protection because he wanted to ensure his safety and that of his family. The defence objected to the request, pointing out that there had been no mention of threats or promises.

The prosecution asked the court to appoint an expert to conduct an analysis of the mobile phones exhibited and extract the WhatsApp chats he had exhibited screenshots of as well as relevant social media accounts.

Mercieca said this was not necessary, before declaring that Massarati and Aldabah were renouncing any defence involving the truthfulness of the WhatsApp screenshots and that there was no need for evidence of their authenticity.

Inspector Farrugia informed the court that the police still wanted to analyse the device for information about other third parties who were possibly involved in the case, as they had not been able to access the devices.

The defence objected to the request, saying it was vague and didn’t specify who these third parties could be or whether they even existed.

“The request, as made, is a “fishing expedition” in the defendants’ mobile phones, which should have happened before they were arraigned, using the legal tools available to the prosecution,” argued Mercieca.

The Magistrate announced that she will be issuing a decree on this request at a later stage.

The lawyer also objected to the request for a protection order, telling the court that the witness “was never threatened, forced or pressured. His fear was down to his awareness of the scale of the case.”

Mercieca said the request would be used by the prosecution to accuse the defendants of threatening the witness further down the line.

The court, however, upheld the request for the protection orders, adjourning the case to July.

Lawyers Jacob Magri, Charles Merceica and Gianluca Caruana Curran are defence counsel.