Man remanded in custody after allegedly importing 5kg of cannabis in the mail

Another 14 cannabis plants were seized from the man's home, after he was arrested, the court was told

The accused, who told the court that he was employed as an electrician, pleaded not guilty to the charges
The accused, who told the court that he was employed as an electrician, pleaded not guilty to the charges

A Mellieħa resident has been remanded in custody in connection with the interception of mail packages containing 5kg of cannabis in total.

Inspector Jonathan Pace arraigned 26-year-old Mellieħa resident Mladen Bjelica before Magistrate Gabriella Vella on Friday.

The Serbian defendant was accused of having imported four packages containing 1kg cannabis grass each, complicity and conspiracy to import the drug, possession in circumstances showing that it was not for personal use and cultivating cannabis plants, in breach of the Dangerous Drugs Act.

The crimes are alleged to have taken place in late December and in the weeks and months before.

Inspector Pace said that on 27 December 2023, his office had received a report from Customs that two packages containing 500g of suspected cannabis grass had arrived. After a magistrate approved a controlled delivery, the inspector, disguised as a MaltaPost employee, had gone to deliver the package.

“As soon as I entered the street, two individuals had started to follow the van. They asked me if I had a package for Mladen Bjelca,” said the inspector, who replied that he did, before carrying out the controlled delivery, with Bjelca signing for the package himself.

After the man was arrested, another 14 cannabis plants were seized from his home, said the inspector, who added that other, similar, packages had also been intercepted, amongst them two identical ones that had been addressed to Mladen. The contents of the packages were declared as boxing gloves and Christmas tree ornaments.

Bjelica had fully cooperated with the police from the moment of his arrest, said the inspector. 

Bjelica, who told the court that he was employed as an electrician, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A freezing order was imposed over his assets, with defence lawyer Charles Mercieca requesting that his client be allowed to access the amount of €13,900  permitted by law for his living expenses.

Mercieca also requested bail, which was opposed by the prosecution on the grounds of there being civilian witnesses who were yet to testify.

Remanding Mladen in custody would lead to him losing his job and with it, his capability to financially assist his father, said the lawyer, arguing that he was not requesting it capriciously.

Inspector Pace countered that the amount was 1kg of cannabis, which was clearly not for personal use, besides the 14 plants found at his residence. There was a serious concern that the investigation could be harmed if bail were to be granted at this stage, he said.

The lawyer argued that the issue was the defendant’s capability to abide by his bail conditions. The witnesses were not subject to the defendant’s interference, he said, arguing that the factors mentioned by the prosecution had no bearing on the granting of bail.

The court, however, rejected the bail request as premature at this stage, in view of the ongoing investigations and the fact that civilian witnesses still needed to testify. The magistrate solicited the prosecution to conclude its investigations and bring forward its witnesses as soon as practicably possible.

Lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran also assisted the defendant.