Suspected people smugglers arrested in Maltese waters

Three Ukrainian men, suspected to be people smugglers, have appeared in court after a dramatic arrest at sea

Three Ukrainian men, suspected to be people smugglers, have appeared in court after a dramatic arrest at sea.

Ilyya Iosifov, 28, Valentyn Mykhenvych, 25, and Roman Koloshva, 28, were detained at sea in Maltese territorial waters on the yacht Vino Tinto II in an operation involving AFM air assets, executing a European Arrest Warrant that had been issued by a Sicilian court just minutes before.

Magistrate Charmaine Galea heard how the yacht was intercepted en route to Italy from Turkey. The men were arrested on the strength of the warrant, which was issued following a Schengen Information System alert from EU border security agency Frontex.

The 35 people who were believed to have been on the vessel were to have been dropped off in Syracuse.

The men, one still in a highlighter blue, pink and green survival suit, were arraigned before Magistrate Charmaine Galea late this afternoon. 

Captain Mykhenvych, Iosifov, and Koloshva were charged with offences relating to the trafficking of human beings. A Russian language interpreter translated the proceedings for the accused men.

Inspector Dr Mario Cuschieri informed the magistrate that he had personally served the men with a copy of the European Arrest Warrant. 

Inspector Jeffrey Scicluna exhibited photos of the yacht, together with a black satchel recovered from inside the craft, a number of mobile phones, Ukrainian passports and travel documents. A number of personal electronic equipment items and effects were also exhibited, together with 725 Ukrainian Hryvnya – equivalent to around €25, €385, US$50 and 560 Turkish lira in loose cash. 

Bail was not requested. 

Inspector Jeffrey Scicluna prosecuted. Inspector Dr. Mario Cuschieri and lawyer Nadia Attard appeared on behalf of the office of the Attorney General. 

Lawyers Alfred Abela, Mario Mifsud, Arthur Azzopardi appeared for the men.

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