Former Libyan official acquitted of using false passport

The court said that the accused had managed to prove to a sufficient level that he was unaware the documents were counterfeit

(File photo)
(File photo)

A court has acquitted a former Gaddafi government official of knowingly being in possession of a forged Guatemalan passport, ruling that he had not been aware of the forgery.

Mohammed Ali Hassan Fakrun from Benghazi had been charged with having forged or tampered with a Guatemalan passport and knowingly keeping it in his possession, amongst related charges.

On 23 May 2018, Fakrun had been apprehended at MIA where he was about to board a flight to Istanbul. A Guatemalan passport and ID card, together with his Libyan passport were found in his possession. The Guatemalan documents were later certified as being “very good” forgeries.

Fakrun was interrogated by the police in the presence of his lawyer and denied knowledge of the fact that the documents were counterfeit. He requested that the police contact the Guatemalan Embassy in Rome so as to ascertain the authenticity of the documents, but when they did so, the police received confirmation that both documents were counterfeit and that the ID card number belonged to a third party.

During his interrogation, the accused had informed the police that the person accompanying him, a certain Oussama el Awar, who was a special envoy to the United Nations, had made arrangements for the issuing of his passport and identity card and that therefore he never had a doubt as to their authenticity. El Awar had then spoken to the police and confirmed what the accused had told them, also handing over a letter from the Guatemalan Director of Immigration stating that the passport issued to the accused was valid.

Fakrun had told police that he had been undersecretary for economic affairs in the Gaddhafi regime and in 2011, after the Libyan uprising, he had fled the country to Jordan due to threats against his family. From Jordan he had tried to come to Malta for business but then moved to Turkey. He set up an export business called Najmat sending food and medical equipment to Libya in 2015.

He started looking for a second nationality to protect himself and his family, he said and had met El Awar through a common friend. El Awar had strong ties with many countries and offered to arrange for an application to obtain Guatemalan nationality and passport. The Guatemala government sent an envoy with the forms at the end of March, beginning of April with El Awar. The envoy took his fingerprints and palm prints and photos and didn’t charge an administrative fee. About a month later he was handed his Guatemala passport. His trip to Malta was the first time he had used it, he said.

The court of Magistrates, presided by magistrate Audrey Demicoli, observed that it had been proven beyond reasonable doubt that the documents were not genuine, but said that the accused had managed to prove to a sufficient level that he was not aware that the documents were counterfeit and that at no point in time did he ever doubt the authenticity of both documents. The court therefore deemed that the prosecution had not managed to prove the intentional element of the crimes with which the man was charged. The accused had given a satisfactory explanation of how the documents came into his possession, said the court, noting that it was the accused himself who had insisted that the police communicate with the Guatemalan authorities to confirm the documents’ authenticity.

Ruling that the man was completely unaware that the very convincing counterfeit documents were fake, the court acquitted him of all charges.

Lawyer Giannella De Marco was defence counsel. Inspector Mario Haber prosecuted.

 

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