Suspicious popcorn order from USA leads Customs to alleged cannabis importer

A policeman posing as a postman delivered the package before changing back and arresting the accused

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

Customs officials have told a court how they had discovered over half a kilogramme of marijuana in a package declared as ‘books and popcorn’, saying they opened the package because “nobody orders popcorn from America”.

Proceedings against Mandy Cassar, 29, from Swieqi continued this afternoon, following her arraignment on drug importation charges last week.

Inspector Joseph Xerri testified that he had been informed by Customs that a suspicious packet had been received from the USA addressed to a Richard Calleja in Madliena. This packet was declared as containing 4 books and popcorn. Nobody orders popcorn from America, he said, so the declaration aroused suspicion.

Customs officers had opened the box to find 3 books and a silver packet of cannabis.

A controlled delivery was carried out with a decoy package. The postman, an undercover policeman, rang the doorbell of the addressee and Cassar had opened. He asked for Richard Calleja. At first, the woman had a “blank expression” when he mentioned Richard Calleja, he said, but when he asked her again for Calleja, she had signed on his behalf.

A few minutes later, the police officer, having changed back into uniform, knocked on the door and searched the residence. The box was on her bed, opened and the bag of dummy cannabis was in it, but had been opened.

Cassar had denied ordering the package and said that she had opened it only out of curiosity. 

The court heard pharmacist Godwin Sammut testify that he had established the weight of the drugs as 500g with a purity of 28% and a street value of between €5000 and €14,000.

Noting that there were no further civilian witnesses to testify, Magistrate Doreen Clarke heard submissions on bail before releasing the woman against a €6,000 personal guarantee and a €2,000 deposit.

She is to sign a bail book twice weekly and observe a curfew.

 Lawyers Franco Debono and Yanika Vidal are defence counsel.

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