Gunshot in Sliema leads police to illegal drug stash

One man has been arrested in connection to the drug stash, while police are on a manhunt for another

A report of a gunshot led police to the discovery of an array of illegal drugs inside a Sliema apartment, resulting in the arrest of one of the occupants and a manhunt for another.

Sliema resident Daniel Sebastian Mejia Villarreal, 25, from Colombia was arraigned before Magistrate Charmain Galea on Thursday, charged with having, last Tuesday and in the preceding weeks and months, been in in possession of ecstasy, ketamine, cocaine and cannabis resin, all of which had been found in circumstances which indicated that they were not intended for his personal use.

Over 200 pills, thought to contain various formulations and doses of MDMA, together with substantial amounts of cannabis buds and resin, as well as a small amount of cocaine, were recovered together with over 60g of Ketamine.

Police inspector Jonathan Ransley told the court how police had received a report of a gunshot at Windsor street on Tuesday. Officers from the RIU were dispatched to the scene and bystanders pointed them towards the apartment where the sound had come from.

The apartment door was initially blocked by the accused, but the officers eventually gained entry, regardless. Different types of drugs were found to be stashed in several places inside the apartment. It also emerged that the reported sound had not in fact been a gunshot, but was the sound of a BB gun being discharged at a glass bottle in the property’s backyard.

Lawyer Roberto Montalto, assisting the defendant, informed the court that Villarreal was pleading not guilty to the charges. His release from arrest was also requested by the defence.

The prosecution objected to the bail request, arguing that the defendant had no ties to Malta and was “very likely” to abscond. Investigations into the registered tenant of the flat he lived in were still ongoing, explained Inspector Ransley, adding that the individual in question had previously been registered at an address in Gzira, just 4 months before.

 “It also emerged that he had come to Malta in the past and had boasted, showing mobile photos, of how much money he made from drugs,” said the inspector, adding that there was also the issue of the accomplice who had disappeared with the money, leaving the defendant in the apartment.

“He has no source of income other than the sale of drugs,” said the inspector.

Montalto argued that the photos were irrelevant to the proceedings. “I want to concentrate on what he have before us, here.  We have six charges of possession in circumstances indicating that it was not for his personal use - so the implication is that he was holding them for someone else.”

“There can be no tampering with evidence because the case is built entirely on circumstantial evidence,” argued the lawyer, pointing out that a magisterial inquiry was  underway. The defendant had come to Malta on a tourist visa and was in the process of applying for a work or student visa, added Montalto.

“The only other person the prosecution has indicated as being at risk of subornation is the co-author of the crime, and so cannot testify against the defendant because they would be co-accused.”

Pointing out that the AG directed the cases to be tried summarily by the Courts of Magistrates, the lawyer proposed that if the court felt the only serious difficulty against granting bail is the address, the defendant could provide another one, with the assistance of his family.

Ransley replied that opting for summary proceedings did not mean that the defendant could not testify in other proceedings, arguing that this scenario was catered for in the law. “He could also decide to assist the investigation,” added the police inspector.

“In that case my client’s rights would be prejudiced because he would be caught in the bottleneck of not being granted bail until he testified,” Montalto shot back.

The court rejected the bail request, however, saying that at this stage, it did not have peace of mind that the defendant would not abscond and that the defendant did not have a fixed address.

Police Inspectors Jonathan Ransley and Michael Vella prosecuted.