Alleged drug trafficker charged with supermarket hold-up

The man stands accused of holding up an elderly supermarket cashier at knifepoint

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

A Sicilian man, on bail for trafficking 40kg of cannabis last year, has been charged with the armed robbery of a supermarket in St. Paul’s Bay.

Sandro Lo Presti, 44, appeared before magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo this afternoon, accused of theft aggravated by violence, means, time and age of the victim, after allegedly holding up the 77-year-old supermarket cashier at knifepoint on 31 May this year, at around 4:30am.

Lo Presti was also accused of holding the man against his will, carrying a knife in public without a police permit, failing to abide by his bail conditions and relapsing.

Lo Presti, who told the court that he was a gypsum plasterer, had been released on a €50,000 bail bond in May in connection with a drug smuggling case.

CID Inspector Fabian Fleri testified that the Sicilian victim had immediately informed the police that the person committing the crime was from Ragusa like him, telling them that the robber’s name was Sandro, who worked with a person he knew and who had been in prison. He had threatened the owner, in Italian, in a Ragusa accent, not to involve the police 2 or three times, saying he’d get his revenge if that happened. 

CCTV footage shows only the man’s chin as his hood covered the rest of his face, explained the inspector, but Lo Presti’s cell phone location data placed him near the shop seven minutes before the crime took place. At the time of the hold up, the phone was off and was switched on around 5am when the man returned to his apartment, the inspector said.

Moreover, Inspector Fleri said the victim was adamant that it was the accused, as he had noticed him acting suspiciously in his shop before and had even saved CCTV footage of him.

Lawyer Franco Debono requested bail. The entire case hinged on voice recognition, he said, arguing that the fact that Lo Presti lived close to the shop meant that the phone localisation data didn’t prove all that much.

The prosecution objected to bail, citing the fact that its main witnesses were yet to testify and lived close to the accused. Despite the defence countering this argument with the fact that the victim had already testified in the magisterial inquiry, the court denied bail at this stage.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Alexander Scerri Herrera were defence counsel.