Police holding out on Gozo drugs perjury investigation

A lengthy appeal could hold up charges of perjury against Zael Vella, whose retraction of her initial police statement was discredited by the magistrate who sentenced Kevin Vella to jail

A perjury investigation on a drug trafficking case that sparked an inquiry into accusations of political interference, is still pending an appeal into the case.

Police are unable to file charges on accusations of perjury against Zael Vella, over the retraction of her statement against Kevin Vella, 21, of Victoria, Gozo, who was jailed for trafficking cocaine at a party at Mgarr ix-Xini back in June 2013.

Sources told MaltaToday that the lengthy appeal will hold up the charges of perjury against Vella, whose retraction of her initial police statement – which incriminated Kevin Vella – was discredited by the magistrate who sentenced the man to jail.

In an official comment, the Police said that it would “assess the implications” of a judgement by the Court of Criminal Appeal “for any related investigations.”

GOZO DRUGS CASE Timeline of allegations of political interference

In a mammoth 108-page judgment, Magistrate Joseph Mifsud had shown he was clearly unimpressed by Zael Vella’s attempts at twisting the facts, noting that she had attempted to discredit her initial police statement, which had been confirmed under oath before the inquiring magistrate.

The case had sparked an investigation by MaltaToday into allegations that relatives of the accused had met two Labour ministers at the Gozo ministry, to discuss the case. But a government inquiry – discredited by the Nationalist Opposition at the time – had found no proof of interference.

Zael Vella had already been conditionally discharged for six months in 2013 for her part in the crime, after police declared that she had cooperated fully with the investigation and was eligible for a reduction in punishment.

But the court was particularly surprised at the defence’s declaration that Zael had “not taken an oath over everything”.

In his decision, Mifsud said that if a witness retracts part of his or her sworn declaration when giving testimony or being cross-examined, this did not mean that the declaration could no longer be taken as evidence against the accused, pointing out that a judge could still reach the conclusion that the truth lies in the sworn statement and not courtroom testimony.

Mifsud said he was convinced the girl had only been telling the truth in the statement taken immediately after her arrest, and that she had then tried to explain away her account in subsequent sittings by saying she had still been suffering from a hangover at the time.

The details given in the statement did not correspond to a person who was not in her right mind, and had been taken 10 hours after her arrest after her hangover had passed, the court said.

Mifsud concluded that Zael Vella had seen Kevin Vella while under the effect of cocaine, as confirmed in her initial statement, and that he had trafficked drugs for a time as well as shared ecstasy pills and cannabis joints with her for free.

Vella was arrested after police officers on a CID surveillance operation saw two men carrying the motionless body of Zael Vella uphill. When CID personnel approached him near his car, Kevin Vella immediately refused their assistance and rushed into the driver’s seat. He then pulled a plastic bag out his right pocket, and tried to open the driver’s door to throw the bag out in the dark, rural surroundings. But he was stopped by the police, who intercepted the small bag carrying nine small sachets of cocaine.

In her initial police statement, Zael Vella later mentioned Chris ‘il-Barri’ Vella, Mark ‘iz-Zuzu’, Samuel Sillatto and George Attard, whom she said Kevin Vella would give free drugs to. But she later told the inquiring magistrate that she was retracting this part of her statement.

Magistrate Joseph Mifsud said he did not believe Kevin Vella’s account of how the cocaine had ended up in his car, and said the body of evidence all pointed to his guilt on the trafficking and aggravated possession charge and jailed him for 18 months, as well as fining him €1,000.

Magistrate Mifsud also ordered the Commissioner of Police to investigate Zael Vella on suspicion that she had given false testimony and to prosecute if this is found to be true. He also gave instructions for the criminal investigation of the individuals mentioned by the girl in her initial statement and to immediately prosecute them if necessary.