Bank robbery trial | Defence complains of ‘lack of evidence’, prosecution says accused was ‘undoubtedly’ involved in foiled bank heist

Prosecution dismisses testimony of robbery ‘mastermind’ as unreliable • Defence says evidence exempts George Xuereb of any criminal responsibility

File photo
File photo

The defence in the trial by jury of George Xuereb has today insisted that the prosecution does not have enough evidence to prove criminal responsibility, while in a tit-for-tat battle, the prosecution has insisted that a man who had been convicted of the attempted robbery implicated the accused.

The prosecution and defence lawyers were addressing jurors as the week-long trial by jury draws to a close.

Xuereb, 49, from Marsa, is being accused of taking part in the foiled hold-up on the Mid-Med Bank St Andrew's branch in March 1996. He is also being charged of the attempted murder of two police officials in a shootout that ensued outside the bank.

In its final submissions, the prosecution insisted that there was Xuereb was ‘undoubtedly’ involved in the failed heist. She pointed out that Joseph Polidano – one of the convicted thieves who was jailed for ten years – had claimed that the accused was responsible to placing the weapons inside a plastic bag.

“Coincidentally, Xuereb’s fingerprints were found on the same plastic bag.”

“Polidano did not embellish the story. What interest does Polidano – a man who has already been jailed for the same crime – would have to implicate other people?” the prosecution questioned.

In her submissions, Lawyer Lara Lanfranco, representing the Attorney General’s office in prosecution, told jurors that Pullicino was adamant that “five robbers rook part in the heist,” including the accused and himself.

On the other hand, Spiteri, known as ‘Il-Bizabellu’ – who in 2003 was also jailed for ten years for the holdup – told the court that only three persons were involved in the heist: himself, the now-deceased Amadeo Brincat, and Joseph Polidano. He also claimed that he only met the accused after the attempted robbery.

Dismissing the testimony of Carmelo Spiteri – who she sarcastically described as being the “most credible person on earth” - Lanfranco insisted that Polidano’s version of events was more credible.

Addressing the jurors, Dr Lanfranco sneered at Carmelo Spiteri, describing him as “the most credible person on earth.”

Insufficient evidence to prove that accused was involved in failed bank heist - Defence

Flagging the "conflicting evidence," the defence, represented by Lawyer Raphael Fenech Adami, stated that it was only former police commissioner John Rizzo who stated that there were five people involved. On the other hand, four officers who investigated the case in 1996, and bank employees, all stated that the robbery involved three robbers.

Coupled with Spiteri’s testimony, the police’s testimony cleared the accused of any criminal responsibility, the defence held.

Reacting to the defence’s argument, Dr Lanfranco said the bank employees were terrified and were lying face down on the ground so they were terrified of what was going on.

While taking umbrage at the excessive delay in court proceedings - claiming that this was due to lack of evidence – the defence insisted that there is not enough evidence to prove the criminal charges beyond reasonable doubt.

"By no stretch of the imagination is there enough evidence which proves, beyond reasonable doubt, that my client was involved in this case," the defence said.

On its part, the prosecution has stated that Xuereb had the only key to the safe house where Carmelo Spiteri hid for a month. Moreover, the prosecution is claiming that there were the accused's fingerprints on a plastic bag found in the getaway car, and that Spiteri was in possession of the accused's mobile phone.

"All we heard that was incriminating was the mobile, the key to the house in Qormi where convict Carmelo Spiteri was found and the fingerprints on the plastic bag found in the getaway car. But even for these, there is an explanation," the defence held.

The trial continues on Saturday when Dr Fenech Adami is expected to address jurors for the final time before Mr Justice Michael Mallia  sends jurors to deliberate.

Lawyers Lara Lanfranco and Kevin Valletta are leading the prosecution, while Lawyer Raphael Fenech Adami is defence counsel.