Jury finds men not guilty of drug charges

Two men have escaped a possible  life sentence after a jury  found them not guilty of importing nearly 20kg of cannabis on a speedboat in 2010.

Malcolm Mifsud, Franco Debono, Mario Mifsud and Alfred Abela
Malcolm Mifsud, Franco Debono, Mario Mifsud and Alfred Abela
Godfrey Gambin, top first from right, with Adel Babani beneath him and defence lawyer Malcolm Mifsud at the bottom.
Godfrey Gambin, top first from right, with Adel Babani beneath him and defence lawyer Malcolm Mifsud at the bottom.

There will be celebrations in Iklin tonight after 40 year-old former barman Godfrey Gambin and Libyan Adel Mohammed Babani, 51 were declared innocent after the jury returned its emphatic verdict following 5 and a half hours of deliberations.

Emotional scenes played out in court as lawyers, family members and the accused hugged each other with tears of joy as the verdict was read out.

In separate verdicts, the jury found both Gambin and Babani not guilty by 7 votes to 2 of drug trafficking, conspiracy to traffick cannabis and aggravated possession.

Gambin alone was found guilty by 8 votes to 1 of possession of cannabis grass and resin. Judge Edwina Grima handed Gambin a two year conditional discharge for this conviction.

Godfrey Gambin, 40, a former barman from Iklin was arrested in July 2010 together with Libyans Adel Mohammed Babani, 51 and Nabeil Ibrahim Saleh, 44, following a police operation which caught the men with nearly 20kg of cannabis resin in their possession, shortly after their arrived at Xemxija on a speedboat.

Saleh, who was granted bail in 2012 after spending 22 months in preventive custody, is again at large having likely absconded to Libya shortly after his release. Proceedings in his regard have been suspended until his recapture.


The men had been accused of conspiracy to import 19.4 kg of cannabis resin, importing the drug and possession of cannabis in amounts which indicated that it had not been for their personal consumption. Gambin alone was also charged with simple possession of cannabis grass and simple possession of cannabis resin.

Lawyer Franco Debono, voice quavering with emotion, said the court had the benefit of experience with drugs cases. He did not feel a custodial sentence was necessary.

The atmosphere in court was palpable, with the defence lawyers barely able to contain their excitement, hugging each other and the accused. The family members were similarly ecstatic.

The trial attracted controversy from the very first sitting, after the first witness to testify, former Assistant Commissioner of Police Neil Harrison, testified that the men had been arrested as a result of a controlled delivery, liaising with one of the men on the speedboat. This pivotal detail had not been mentioned in six years since the men had been arrested, a fact that was exploited to the fullest extent by the defence.

Lawyers Giannella Camilleri Busuttil and Nadia Attard from the Office of the Attorney General prosecuted. Lawyers Alfred Abela, Franco Debono, Mario Mifsud are appearing for Gambin, while lawyer Malcolm Mifsud is defending Babani.

More in Court & Police