Judge allows cocaine courier to be tried by the inferior courts

The accused requested his case be judged by the Court of Magistrates and thereby face a much lower maximum sentence  - a right afforded to him as a result of the 2014 amendments to the criminal code.

A judge has ruled that Antonio Gatt, brother of jailed drug trafficker Lawrence Gatt, can be tried before the Court of Magistrates.

The accused had allegedly formed part of a drugs importation ring led by jailed criminal Norman Bezzina, which had imported over 2.2kg of cocaine from Canada. The investigation into Bezzina, Gatt and his brother Lawrence had begun in 2001, after a packet of cocaine was intercepted in the mail. Bezzina’s deputy, Simon Xuereb, had also been imprisoned for his part in the crimes.

Antonio had requested that proceedings against him, on charges of complicity in importation and possession of cocaine, be judged by the Court of Magistrates and thereby face a much lower maximum sentence  - a right afforded to him as a result of the 2014 amendments to the criminal code.

The men had been arrested in May 2001 after a controlled delivery of the packet, which had been noted as containing cocaine. Antonio Gatt had been a security driver at the Malta Freeport in charge of collecting the mail. He had been approached by Lawrence Gatt and Norman Bezzina to collect a packet arriving from Canada and had used family contacts in the customs department to collect the packets, which had been marked as containing car parts.

The accused had always denied knowing that the packets contained drugs and also maintained that he didn’t know Bezzina or Xuereb.

Judge Edwina Grima agreed and held that Antonio Gatt was not involved in the distribution or sale of the drugs. The accused’s role in the operation was simply that of a courier, which she described as a “minor and limited” one, as it had appeared that he was under the instructions of his brother Lawrence, without apparently being aware of the scale of the drug running operation. 

The case will now be allocated to a magistrate and proceed accordingly.

Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Joe Giglio appeared for Antonio Gatt.

More in Court & Police