Car boot drug bust | Accused's brother refuses to testify

The accused's brother briefly took the witness stand today, but opted not to testify as he is facing separate charges over the drug find

The accused was charged on 20 January with the aggravated possession of recreational drugs in circumstances which indicated that they were not intended for his personal use (File photo)
The accused was charged on 20 January with the aggravated possession of recreational drugs in circumstances which indicated that they were not intended for his personal use (File photo)

More details have emerged in court about last week's Drugs Squad operation in Zurrieq that culminated in the discovery of an array of illicit substances in the boot of a parked car and the arrests of two brothers.

Police Inspector Frank Tabone took the witness stand in magistrate Neville Camilleri's courtroom, as the compilation of evidence against 26-year-old Melvin Cini continued today.

Cini, a port worker, remains in custody after he was charged on 20 January with the aggravated possession of every basic illicit recreational drug: 150g of cannabis, 110g of both cocaine and heroin and approximately 100 ecstasy pills, all in circumstances which indicated that the drugs were not intended for his personal use. Cini sat with arms crossed, observing proceedings from the dock with a scowl for the duration of this morning's sitting.

Inspector Tabone testified that a covert surveillance operation had been put in place after he had received a tip off that an Isuzu vehicle parked in Zurrieq was being used for drug dealing.

The officers observing the vehicle had been instructed to inform officers waiting nearby if any one got in the parked Isuzu.

At around 11:30am on the day of the arrest, inspector Tabone had been called by the observation post and told that the accused had been observed opening the boot of the car and touching items inside it. Cini had been arrested as he prepared to drive away in his VolksWagen Passat.

No drugs were found in the Passat, but the key to the car containing suspected drugs was found in his pocket, Tabone told the court.

In the back of the parked Isuzu, substances suspected to be cocaine, cannabis grass, heroin and ecstasy had been found, together with a digital weighing scale. Laboratory testing on the substances recovered was still underway, the court was told. Two mobile phones belonging to the accused had also been seized.

After his arrest, Cini had been interrogated for just under an hour in the presence of lawyer Amadeus Cachia , the policeman said, and had chosen to answer some of the questions.

Cini had explained that the key to the car carrying the drugs was stored in his mother's shop. His mother and sister also had access to the car, he said, but said that they never used it. The vehicle had been parked in the street as it was not working well. Tabone testified that when Cini's interrogator had asked what he had gone there for, he had replied he had wanted to see “whether the car was alright.” He claimed to have had no prior knowledge that the packets contained drugs and so he had handled some of them.

Further investigations revealed that the car was registered to the accused's brother, Tabone said.

Lawyer Marion Camilleri cross-examined the police inspector. She asked whether the police had checked to see if the car was working. Tabone replied that the car's engine had been started and that it had been driven on to the tow truck under its own power.

“So you just started it and drove it?” asked the lawyer. The witness replied in the affirmative.

Replying to further questions, he said the surveillance operation had started on the morning of the day of the man's arrest and had lasted around three hours. “So, basically the reason you arrested Mr. Cini was because he approached the car and opened the boot, correct?” “And touched the contents,” the inspector replied.

That was the only surveillance carried out on the vehicle, he confirmed, adding that the police had acted when they received information that the accused was opening the car.

The key to the Isuzu was kept at accused's mother's bakery, he said. He confirmed that no illicit substances had been found in the Passat.

Terence Cini from Qormi also briefly took the witness stand today, having been summoned by the prosecution. He opted not to testify as he is facing separate charges over the drug find.

The court announced it would be giving a decree on bail in the coming days, after it was informed that there were no further civilian witnesses to be summoned.

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