Lawyers demand murdered Romanian mobster's criminal record be exhibited in court

Man accused of stabbing Romanian mobster in Paceville denied bail a second time

Joseff Rivas was murdered last December outside a cafe in Paceville
Joseff Rivas was murdered last December outside a cafe in Paceville

One of the three men accused of stabbing a Romanian mobster to death in Paceville last December has been denied bail a second time as the compilation of evidence against them continued on Thursday.

When the case against Ionut Iulian Tanase, Dan-Andrei Tanase and Ilie Constantin continued before Magistrate Astrid May Grima,  a court-appointed DNA expert exhibited her report and returned several bags of exhibits that she had examined to the court. The list of exhibits alone was 8 pages long, noted the court.

The Tanase brothers and Ilie Constantin are charged with the murder of Joseff Rivas, possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime, carrying a knife in public without a licence and breaching the peace. The men also stand charged with offences relating to living off the earnings of prostitution.

Rivas was stabbed to death outside a cafe in Paceville last December, in a murder thought to be connected to a turf war between Romanian criminal gangs in the prostitution business.

In a previous sitting, the court had been told that Rivas was a person of interest to international intelligence services due to his ties to organised crime. He is understood to have featured in a joint investigation into an organised crime syndicate working in the field of prostitution carried out by the Maltese police together with their British and Romanian counterparts.

When the case was called on Thursday, the magistrate observed that Dan Andrei Tanase had filed another bail application yesterday, just over a month after his previous one was rejected. The prosecution presented the court with its reply during today’s sitting. 

Making submissions on bail, lawyer Franco Debono invited the court to focus its attention solely on the situation of the defendant who was requesting bail, as circumstances differed between the defendants.

It would emerge that he did not have any involvement in the murder, submitted the lawyer. “There is almost nothing tying him to that crime.”

“Moreover, they are all saying that they acted in self-defence. The overarching defence is that [Rivas] was a notorious individual. We have been waiting for several months for evidence of the victim’s character to be collected and we invite the court to solicit the prosecution to exhibit official evidence of the victim’s criminal background - which includes murder, attempted kidnapping and attempted murders.”

But the Court demanded evidence that Tanase would not abscond if granted bail.

Debono quoted from jurisprudence, which stated that bail was to be granted where there was no possible future change of situation for the defendant.

The State was failing to provide people the possibility of electronic tagging, the lawyer said, pointing out that he had proposed its introduction in Parliament 12 years ago. 

“We can’t always be 30 years late to introduce well-established rights in this country,”  Debono complained, pointing out that only recently that former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been jailed for corruption and bribery, had been allowed to serve his sentence at home wearing an electronic tag by an appeals court in France earlier this year. 

The lawyer also pointed to the large financial guarantees as part of today’s decision to grant bail to a group of Belgian youths after four months in custody.  “Onerous conditions are fine, but you cannot detain people indefinitely,” Debono argued.

Prosecutor Kaylie Bonett argued against bail on the grounds that evidence against the defendant was still being collected, besides the serious nature of the crimes he was accused of committing and the fact that the defendants had tried to flee the country.

“They went to the police station!” Debono said. 

“After they failed to escape though,” Bonett’s colleague Darlene Grima immediately shot back. 

Bail was ultimately denied by the court in view of the defendant’s lack of strong ties to Malta and general untrustworthiness, as well as the risk of him absconding to avoid answering for the serious offences he was charged with.

In view of the rejection, Debono dictated a note, asking the court to urge the prosecution to immediately and without further delay, bring forward its evidence about the character of the alleged victim, pointing out that several months into the compilation of evidence they are still yet to be produced, despite a previous solicitation by the court. “ These are of cardinal importance in this case,” he said.

Inspector Kurt Zahra informed the court that the prosecution had requested a copy of the victim’s criminal record from the UK and Romania. Reminders had also been sent, requesting this information as quickly as possible. “This is happening in parallel with other investigations involving several countries into the organised crime with which the defendants are charged.”

That request had been made in October, but the investigation and communication with other countries has been ongoing since the murder, he said.

The case was adjourned to February next year.

Prosecutors Darlene Grima and Kaylie Bonett from the Office of the Attorney General are assisting Police Inspectors Kurt Zahra and Brian Xuereb. Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi, Franco Debono, Charmaine Cherret, Francesca Zarb and Jacob Magri are representing the accused men.