Jobless man arrested with drugs succumbed to €500 offer to act as drug mule

Accused says drugs were not his, but that he had been promised €500 to take it from one place to another: an offer that appeared inviting as he had financial problems and was unemployed

File photo.
File photo.

One of two men arrested on drugs charges earlier this week had said that he had accepted the offer of €500 to act as a drug mule because of his financial problems, a court has been told.

Inspector Kevin Pulis from the police Drug Squad testified in the compilation of evidence against 48-year-old Ivan (John) Xuereb from St Paul's Bay. Xuereb is charged with aggravated possession of cocaine and possession of an unlicensed firearm after capsules containing 200g of the drug, were confiscated by the Police following a surveillance operation that had been going on for days.

The court was told that the Drug Squad had been monitoring Xuereb and 39-year-old Daniel Borg Olivier from Swieqi for several days before making the arrests on Saturday afternoon.

Inspector Pulis told magistrate Neville Camilleri how he had received information that drugs were being sold from a Ford Fiesta in the St Paul's Bay area. Police had moved in and followed the car to Triq il-Halel, where it was stopped and searched.

Borg Olivier was found to be driving, with Xuereb in the passenger seat. The driver had been frisked but nothing illegal was found. Officers carrying out a search on Xuereb's person had discovered a black sachet containing capsules of white powder, suspected to be cocaine, in his right jacket pocket. A similar capsule was found in one of his jeans pockets, together with tissue paper on which traces of what was suspected to be cocaine.

Xuereb was carrying two mobile phones when he was arrested, Pulis told the court.

The men were taken to Qawra police station to be searched thoroughly and questioned, but despite the searches, no further suspicious substances were found, he said. A further two mobiles and a laptop had been recovered from the house and were being examined.

The court was told that an unlicensed Bernardelli pistol and a total of 49 rounds of ammunition were also found at Xuereb's residence. The pistol was loaded.

Drug paraphernalia were found on the kitchen table, which led the accused to explain that he was addict, the inspector said.

The day after their arrest, Xuereb and Borg Olivier had been questioned by police. Xuereb, who had chosen not to be assisted by a lawyer, had said that the drugs were not his, but that he had been promised €500 to take it from one place to another. He had explained that this offer appeared inviting as he had financial problems and was unemployed.

Xuereb told the police that the firearm was a recent acquisition of his and that he had been in the process of sorting out its paperwork. The phones were for his personal use, he claimed and had told the police that he didn't know the amounts of drugs in the bags.

Borg Olivier had also been questioned and had denied knowing that the accused was carrying drugs, insisting that he had only met the accused to chat, Inspector Pulis said. Borg Olivier is currently on police bail, while police continued their investigations.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi cross-examined the inspector. Pulis confirmed that the accused had told him that he was a drug mule. “I don't have proof to confirm or deny this,” the inspector said. “So far the information I have is that the police found the drugs in the possession of the accused. There is no evidence that the accused is involved in criminality.”

A female constable from the Drug Squad who had participated in the arrest told the court that Xuereb had not resisted arrest and had immediately informed the police that he was carrying drugs. He had also advised the police that he had a firearm in his bedside table. The magazine had been loaded and inserted in the handgun, she confirmed.

Borg Olivier declined to testify when summoned before the court this morning.

The magistrate expressed frustration at the fact that other police witnesses could not attend the sitting this morning, due to their deployment for extra duties related to Malta's presidency of the EU. The upshot of this was the continued detention of persons who would otherwise be eligible for bail, he said.

Azzopardi requested bail. “The only civilian witness stepped down from the witness stand five minutes ago. My client's version is documented and now forms part of the acts of the case. The remaining witnesses are all members of the police Drug Squad. We had a WPC testify as to the circumstances this morning.”

Magistrate Camilleri will issue a decree on bail from chambers.

Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Antonio Depasquale are appearing for Xuereb in the proceedings.

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