Man handed five-year prison sentence over attempt to import C4

Jomic Calleja Maatouk has been sentenced to five years in prison after trying to import C4 and radioactive polonium

File photo showing a block of C4 explosive (Inset: Jomic Calleja Maatouk)
File photo showing a block of C4 explosive (Inset: Jomic Calleja Maatouk)

A court has sentenced Jomic Calleja Maatouk to imprisonment for five years, and ordered the confiscation of his bail guarantees, a total of €51,000, after finding him guilty of attempting to import an amount of C4 explosive that he had purchased on the dark web.

Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech, who presided over the case, had heard Superintendent George Cremona testify about how cooperation between the Maltese police and foreign intelligence services had led to the interception of internet communications between a person selling the C4 and a potential buyer in 2019.

Superintendent Cremona and Inspector Omar Zammit were among the witnesses who had testified about the meticulous police investigation which resulted in Calleja Maatouk being charged.

Before settling on C4, the buyer and seller had also discussed the possibility of buying the radioactive isotope Polonium-210 and the potent poison Ricin. Both substances have been used in assassinations abroad in recent years.

As part of the conversation, the buyer had disclosed that the intended victim was a man and was asked to specify the target’s height and weight so as to calculate a lethal dose.

The package containing the military explosive, a 9-volt battery, toggle switch, mercury switch and blasting cap, all concealed inside a guitar amplifier, was intercepted at a US Air Force base in Arizona. After the American authorities had informed the Maltese police of the intercepted parcel, Superintendent Cremona and a colleague had flown to the USAF base to see the content of the explosive payload for themselves.

The C4 was then removed from the package and replaced with an inert replica substance before being allowed to continue on its way to Malta via a UK freight forwarding company, addressed to a “Roger Tabone” and a “Simona Cremona” - both of whom turned out to be Calleja Maatouk himself.

He was arrested on 27 August 2019, and released on police bail two days later. After his release from arrest, the defendant had written to the seller, telling him that the order had been discovered, something which the seller had already been aware of and which had led him to cancel the order. 

“The order was never delivered because we know pigs know about it and for obvious reasons we will not going to pick it [sic],” reads an email from Calleja Maatouk to the seller.  He had then accused the seller of being “one of the pigs,” but was himself accused by the vendor of trying to avoid paying for the goods.

The court was told that the shipper was listed as being a William Pierce from Scottsdale, Arizona. The UK delivery address was also mentioned in the dark web conversations between the seller and buyer.

In the end, it was a careless mistake by Calleja Maatouk that led the police to zero in on him. The court was told how, when ordering the delivery of the package through a local freight forwarding company, he had done so using his own user account number, which was linked to the address of Calleja Maatouk’s showroom in Qormi, from which he used to run an illegal bitcoin and autotrader operation, which had been shut down by the MFSA.

Lawyer Benjamin Valenzia assisted the defendant.

Calleja’s criminal background

Calleja Maatouk had been previously arrested in Taormina, Sicily back in February 2015 on the strength of a European Arrest Warrant issued in connection with the interception of an 18kg consignment of cannabis grass and other drugs.

During the course of their investigations, the accused emerged as a suspect, however he absconded to Sicily before he could be questioned.

Calleja was subsequently charged with trafficking in cocaine, conspiring to import and traffic cannabis grass and selling it.

He was also charged with being in possession of a firearm without the necessary licence, firing it in an inhabited area and breaching previous bail conditions.

Calleja had also been charged with firing an AK-47 assault rifle in a Qormi garage complex on two occasions in the summer of 2013.

The police had searched his residence in August 2013 and recovered four 7.62mm x 39mm rounds, which correspond with the AK-47 weapon system. A pill-making machine was also retrieved.

Calleja was the subject of three European Arrest Warrants in connection with three separate criminal cases.

In February 2013 he was placed on probation for three years and fined €700 after he pleaded guilty to falsification of cash. Calleja also admitted to buying counterfeit cash, breaching the conditions of a previous release, and being a relapser.

In 2010, Calleja was charged with conspiracy to traffic 17 kg of cannabis resin, which allegedly imported through the post over a number of months. Calleja alone was also charged with importing and trafficking in cannabis. The cannabis was sent in parcels from the UK to various addresses.

In November 2010, the court ordered a freeze on Calleja’s assets and banned him from travelling.

The Malta Financial Services Authority had also issued a warning against Calleja’s website registered at his Mdina Road address in Qormi. Calleja used the surname Grech and paraded as the CEO of a trading certified platform without a licence.