Week-long trial by jury clears man accused of being cocaine mule handler

The man stood accused of conspiring to traffic 90 capsules of cocaine in 2013 but was acquitted by a jury of his peers

The case was centred around the arrest of a durg mule at the Malta International Airport back in July 2013
The case was centred around the arrest of a durg mule at the Malta International Airport back in July 2013

A man accused of conspiring to traffic 90 capsules of cocaine in 2013 has been cleared by a jury of his peers in a trial that took more than a week to conclude and which saw almost five hours of deliberation.

Edward Cardona, 36, of St Paul’s Bay stood accused of conspiracy to traffic cocaine and possession of cocaine in circumstances which denoted that it was not solely for his personal use, over a 2013 drugs bust at the Malta International Airport.

Judge Giovanni Grixti, presiding the Criminal Court, and a panel of nine jurors heard how, in July 2013, Drugs Squad police had arrested a woman at the airport and found a number of capsules containing approximately one kilogramme of what was later confirmed to be cocaine to be in her possession.

Customs officials had found the woman to have concealed a number of capsules in a contraceptive inside her body. She was escorted to Mater Dei Hospital where her stomach was X-rayed, identifying other capsules which she had swallowed. 73 capsules were recovered from her person, containing a total of 901grams of cocaine with a street value of €57,513.

It emerged that this drug courier had been tasked with carrying the drug by a Nigerian man in Spain called “Obi.” The prosecution allege that the courier was to link up with Edward Cardona in Malta for the sale of the drugs, who had already agreed on the operation with Obi.

This transaction had subsequently been successfully concluded, according to the Bill of Indictment, which asked the Cardona to be imprisoned for life.

The woman - whose name cannot be published by court order - and who had been found guilty, in separate proceedings, of importing cocaine on three separate occasions, testified to having recognised the accused in photos presented by investigating police officers.

However, the witness had failed to recognised the accused during the compilation of evidence before the magistrate only to recognise the man again during and had recognised him during the trial by jury.  

READ MORE: Jury trial of alleged cocaine mule handler begins

The woman recounted how she was arrested at the airport in July 2013 and had co-operated with the police, releasing a statement stating she had come to Malta on previous occasions, including December 2012, when she gave drugs to a “tall, fat, bald man who resembled the Adams Family’s Uncle Fester”, who she recognised in one of the six photos she had been shown.

She had confirmed her statement under oath and the accused was arraigned in 2013.

In what turned out to be lengthy submissions, the Defence criticised the fact that, according to the same witness, the Police had shown her one photo of the accused prior to asking her to choose a photo out of six to identify the person she had met in December 2012.

This, claimed the Defence, “contaminated” the whole identification process, and would lead to a miscarriage of justice, especially in light of the inconsistency shown recognising the accused.  It also criticised the fact that no identification parade had been conducted, insisting therefore, that the entire process was inadequate and vitiated.

The Jury found Cardona not guilty of conspiring to traffic cocaine by seven votes to two, and unanimously dismissed the second charge.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Cachia were defence counsel.

Nadia Attard and Anemarie Cutajar from the Attorney General’s office prosecuted.

READ MORE: Drug mule, 24, gets eight years for cocaine trafficking

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