Drug courier tells jury he swallowed 60 capsules of cocaine for €600 in 2010

The 30-year-old witness was arrested in November 2010 after arriving from Germany to Malta by air, having already travelled from Holland to Germany by train

The star witness in the trial of Ikechukwu Stephen Egbo, a Nigerian man accused of organising the importation of cocaine in 2010, has told a jury that Egbo was the person who he was supposed to meet.

Attila Somiyai, who received a nine-year sentence in 2014 for his part in the smuggling operation, testified this afternoon.

The 30-year-old man, who described himself as “half Hungarian, half Romanian,” was arrested in November 2010 after arriving from Germany to Malta by air, having already travelled from Holland to Germany by train.

He had cooperated with the police and carried out a controlled delivery, which led to Egbo's arrest.

Asked what brought him to Malta, he replied: “I transport drugs.”

He was carrying his half-kilogramme cargo of cocaine in 60 capsules which he had ingested.

“The colouring was white so I don't know if it was coke or heroin,” he told the jury today.

He was told that a person was going to be waiting for him in Malta, who would pay him. He had done this before. “About the money, I didn't know who much, only that they were going to pay me.”

However, he later said that he would receive between €10 and €15 per capsule delivered.

The person who sent him to Malta was Nigerian and lived in Holland, but he didn't know his name, he said.

He had been offered the job by the Nigerian, whom he referred to as “Boss”. The Nigerian had met him in Holland.

“The first time I didn't want to accept because I was afraid. Then I accepted because I needed the money. Fast money.”

The Nigerian had instructed the witness to swallow the capsules with water, he said. In October, he had imported 28 capsules, he said.

Attilla was arrested a month later, in November, doing a second run.

On both occasions, the Nigerian had told him to stay at the Roma Hotel and wait. No room was booked, he said.

In October, he had found two persons waiting for him at the hotel. “These two people were also from Nigeria... they took the capsules and they paid me.”

He was paid around €600 on that occasion, he said.

Police had found a money transfer for €2,000 to the witness in Romania. “I was in Holland at the time. My boss sent me money to be sent to Ushe Usughi who was to be waiting for me in Malta.”

After his arrest, he had been sent to hospital and questioned by police. “I was afraid about what was going to happen to me.”

“Of course I help them, I tell the truth, maybe there is a chance they let me go.”

A controlled delivery was arranged at the Roma Hotel.

Attilla had called Boss in Holland and was told that a person would be waiting outside the hotel, sitting on a bench near the sea. The witness went outside and saw “a Nigerian man” stand up and make a gesture with his head, he said. He had followed the Nigerian into a supermarket and then outside.

“Then he started to run. If you are caught and you are guilty, of course you start to run.”

Supermarket CCTV footage of the person was shown to the jury. He said he recognised him as the accused and pointed to the man in the dock.

Defence counsel Marc Sant cross-examined the witness.

He had not communicated with the Boss when he arrived in Malta, he said.

The witness said that had been aware of the risks of a capsule opening inside him, saying he had lost his family and didn't care. He was paid for each capsule €10 to €15 in October. The same rate applied in the November operation, he said.

How did he know the Boss in Holland is Nigerian? asked Sant. “He didn't even tell you his name.”

“He spoke Hungarian... also Nigerian,” said the witness, explaining that he had assumed he was Nigerian.

Sant asked if Attilla had been offered a deal to give information to the police.

“Yes, they were going to help me with the sentence.”

Since the drugs were not collected, he had told the Boss that Egbo had run away, but the jury had previously been told by the Assistant Commissioner of Police that there was a possibility of a second controlled delivery. “Which version is true?”

“I had called him [Boss], but he didn't answer.”

Had he told Boss that the person hadn't come for the drugs, asked Sant. “Yes. He told me 'you have to defecate the capsules and you have to eat the capsules again.' Of course this was not going to happen because I was with the police.”

Sant pointed out that the witness had met this person in October and spoken to him. Why hadn't he spoken to “Boss” again in November? “I didn't speak to him,” mumbled the witness.

He said “Boss” had described the person he was supposed to meet, he said. But the defence asked why, if he had met the same person only a month before, did he need to describe him again? Attilla replied that he didn't know.

The witness had left the hotel in daylight and had recognised the accused from his hair and his face, he said.

He had called “Boss” using a phone that he had brought with him from abroad he said.

“Did you take all this risk..., swallowing the drugs, coming to Malta...were you ready to give the drugs to someone whose name you didn't know?”

“My boss told me there was only one person sitting on the bench. That's how I know this person.”

“Another thing was puzzling me...why did you mention the October delivery to the police? They didn't know about it and you were getting yourself into trouble.”

“This was my only chance, so I told them everything,” replied the witness.

The lawyer pointed out that Attilla had claimed to have seen Egbo running out of the supermarket, but CCTV footage played in court showed the man walking out calmly. “When he was outside, he started running,” the witness clarified.

“I was following him...then I was waiting for the moment when the guy was going to give me something."

“Are you lying just to justify your getting a deal and a better sentence? Why are you nowhere in the footage?” Sant asked. The court reframed the question. In his statement he had said that, as he arrived right next to Egbo, the latter had realised that the police were nearby inside the supermarket and had walked out. “Why was this not captured on camera?” asked the judge. With gestures, he explained that he had not been standing in another lane in the supermarket as Egbo.

A juror asked how long the transaction took. When he went in the car to exchange the drugs for the money it was very fast, "like superman,” around five seconds.

The juror pointed out that he was on record that he had spoken to the two persons. “Not too much. They gave me the money, ciao and that's it.”

The trial continues.

Lawyer Giannella Busuttil is prosecuting on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General. Lawyers Simon Micallef Stafrace and Marc Sant are defence counsel.

Madame Justice Edwina Grima is presiding.

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