Acquitted of drug trafficking after nine-year wait

The alleged owner of a boat used for smuggling drugs back in 2001 has been cleared of charges nearly nine years after being charged 

The alleged owner of a boat used in drug smuggling has been cleared of drug trafficking charges nearly nine years after being charged.

In 2009, Daniel Victor Bonnici, 42, of Burmarrad was accused of having imported a considerable amount of cocaine and cannabis from Holland in 2001. During the investigations, it emerged that he had also been involved in the importation of the Dutch drugs consignment from Sicily on a boat. 

He was charged with conspiracy to import sell or traffic drugs.

In December 2001, the police Drugs Squad had foiled a plot to import a considerable amount of cocaine and cannabis, arresting 19 persons, some of them prisoners at Corradino Correctional Facility. The police had clandestinely observed a number of suspects for several months and cooperated with the Catania police who were also investigating this case.

The plot was foiled when Italian police stopped Fabio Psaila and Raymond Borg as they were collecting the drugs in Catania. More arrests followed.

Mario Camilleri, Emanuel Camilleri, Charles Steven Muscat, John Camilleri, Romeo Bone, Yvette Muscat, Emanuela Camilleri, Trudy Testa, Pierre Camilleri, Isaac Chetcuti, Emanuel Borg, Anthony Gatt, Carmen Armeni, Sylvana Bugeja, Juma Said Karfoosh, Suzanne Abela, Alfred Bugeja and Albert Bugeja were all arrested and charged in connection with the plot. Bonnici was indicted separately.

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale observed that after the indictments were issued, between October 2009 and December 2014 absolutely nothing was done. After the Attorney General ordered that the case be heard by the Court of Magistrates as a court of Criminal Judicature and being assigned the case in February 2015, magistrate Depasquale had the unenviable task of sifting through 4,000 pages of documentation related to the case.

The evidence tying Bonnici to the case was the fact that police had observed him lowering the boat into the water together with another man and sea-trialling it. Bonnici’s statement to the police was declared inadmissible as it had been made without a lawyer present – a practice that was acceptable at the time but which was subsequently ruled unconstitutional.

In addition, telephone intercepts by the Security Services were inconclusive and no proof that the boat intended to be used belonged to the accused was ever exhibited.

In view of all this, the court acquitted Bonnici of all charges.

Lawyer Giannella Demarco was defence counsel to Bonnici.

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