Elderly man acquitted of 2001 cocaine importation charge

The 69-year-old was acquitted of conspiracy to import drugs in a case dating back 17 years

Antonio Gatt, a 69-year-old man from Paola, has been acquitted of conspiracy to import drugs in a case dating back 17 years.

Gatt was arrested at the airport parking area in 2001, shortly after receiving a package that contained 2.25 kilogrammes of cocaine. The case related to two separate importations of around five kilogrammes of cocaine via two postal parcels. Norman Bezzina, who was considered the mastermind of this importation was sentenced in separate proceedings.

Gatt had been arrested in May 2001 after a controlled delivery of the packet, which had been noted as containing cocaine. Antonio Gatt had been a security driver at the Malta Freeport in charge of collecting the mail. He had been approached by Lawrence Gatt and Norman Bezzina to collect a packet arriving from Canada and had used family contacts in the customs department to collect the packets, which had been marked as containing car parts.

The accused had always denied knowing that the packets contained drugs and also maintained that he didn’t know Bezzina or Xuereb.

In 2015, Judge Edwina Grima had held that Antonio Gatt was not involved in the distribution or sale of the drugs. The accused’s role in the operation was simply that of a courier, which she described as a “minor and limited” one, as it had appeared that he was under the instructions of his brother Lawrence, without apparently being aware of the scale of the drug running operation. The case was sent to the Court of Magistrates for judgment.

In a judgment handed down earlier this week, Magistrate Neville Camilleri determined that the Prosecution had not proven beyond reasonable doubt that Gatt was involved in the plan to import the drugs. The facts and circumstances militate against the prosecution’s argument, said the Magistrate, adding that from the testimony he had heard, it emerged that Gatt had been betrayed by his brother Lawrence (Lorry).

It was Lawrence Gatt who had introduced his brother to a certain Norman Bezzina who had been to Canada and had acquired the drugs and wanted to bring them to Malta. Antonio Gatt had testified in the trial by Jury of Norman Bezzina.

Lawrence Gatt was never tried as he had died during course of proceedings. Gatt was acquitted of all charges.

Lawyers Joe Giglio, Jason Azzopardi and Kris Busietta appeared for Antonio Gatt

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