AG adds drug trafficking charge against Lilu King

Lilu King's lawyers react with anger and surprise while the court upholds the Attorney General’s request, asking for the offence of drug trafficking - which carries a possible life sentence - to be added to the charge sheet, on Tuesday morning

Mohamed Ali Ahmed Elmushraty, better known by his nickname “Lilu King.”
Mohamed Ali Ahmed Elmushraty, better known by his nickname “Lilu King.”

All evidence and testimony previously gathered in the proceedings against Mohamed Ali Ahmed Elmushraty, better known by his nickname “Lilu King,” is to be re-heard, after drug trafficking charges were added this morning.

Elmushraty had been charged with money laundering, tax evasion and participation in organised crime, in May last year. Over the course of the compilation of evidence against the Libyan boxer-turned-minor-Instagram-celebrity, the defence had repeatedly taunted the prosecution for not having exhibited evidence to substantiate the charges of money laundering and participating in organised crime, involving drug trafficking. At one stage, the court, too, had expressed disappointment at the lack of compelling evidence to back up the charges. 

His lawyers reacted with anger and surprise when the court read out and upheld the Attorney General’s request, asking for the offence of drug trafficking to be added to the charge sheet, this morning. The maximum sentence for drug trafficking is imprisonment for life.

Lawyer Jose Herrera protested that he hadn’t been notified with the AG’s application, but was given short shrift by the court, which replied that the defence has access to the acts of the case and would be given sufficient time to reply. 

“The court registrar shouldn’t have to send them here and there,” he said.

As a new charge was being added, the charges, as amended, would have to be read out and Elmushraty would have to enter a plea again. This is not an uncommon occurrence in criminal proceedings and what normally follows is the defence consenting to exempt the prosecution from having to exhibit all of its evidence and summon all its witnesses from scratch. That is not what happened today, however.

When the sitting reconvened after a pause to allow the defence to acquaint itself with the new charges and formulate its response, lawyer Franco Debono informed the court that the defence had previously objected to a similar request that had been made verbally and subsequently rejected by the court as it had not been made in writing. 

“But now that it's been made in writing, the court must allow us to make submissions on it,” Debono added.

He argued that because the prosecution had filed a document containing a request, this qualified as an application and so the defence had the right to make submissions.

Herrera accused the prosecution of trying to shore up an unfavourable position, after finding that they didn’t have a leg to stand on. 

”These are exceptional circumstances which I have never encountered in my career,” said the lawyer, prompting the court to point out that the circumstances were “actually very common.” 

After a great deal of back and forth, the court upheld the request for the addition of the charges, ordering they be read out and confirmed on oath again. 

Herrera and Debono immediately objected, Herrera arguing that “now, at this moment there are no proceedings against Elmushraty, and so he must be released from arrest.” 

“He spent eight months under arrest in an abusive manner and will sue the State for damages!” shouted the lawyer.

The magistrate pointed out that the charges themselves stated that the defendant was being presented under arrest.

Debono argued that between the court’s acceptance of the charges and their reading out, the defendant “was in limbo” as the proceedings against him had not started. Therefore, his arrest and detention were illegal at that stage, submitted the lawyer.

Moreover, since Elmushraty had been re-arrested, the defence requested bail, arguing that Elmushraty was under arrest “for nothing,” because the prosecution had subsequently “moved the goalposts.”

“It is illegal, abusive and contrary to the defendant’s human rights,” Herrera said.

The prosecuting lawyer from the Office of the Attorney General rebutted that the law explicitly allowed the prosecution to add charges at this stage, adding that “the risk of him tampering with evidence has now tripled,” his voice almost drowned out by Herrera’s shouts of “shame!”

Elmushraty's request for bail was rejected in a decree handed down later on Tuesday.