Jordan Azzopardi used elderly man to cash in fake €100 bank notes

Witnesses give details of how the drug lord operated using underlings to do his bidding

Jordan Azzopardi stands accused of masterminding a cocaine and heroin trafficking ring
Jordan Azzopardi stands accused of masterminding a cocaine and heroin trafficking ring

Mario Abdilla would enter a shop with a fake €100 bank note and buy goods worth some €20 to end up with a profit.

It was the 66-year-old’s way of exchanging counterfeit money for the real deal and all this at the behest of drug lord Jordan Azzopardi.

Details of this criminal operation emerged in court after Abdilla testified in the case against Azzopardi. Abdilla is currently serving a three-year jail term for using false currency.

The elderly man told the court how last March he met Azzopardi at a roundabout and accepted to change the fake €100 notes given to him by the latter. Abdilla was promised €15 for every banknote he managed to exchange.

Several shops were targeted and Abdilla managed to cash in seven times, each time handing over the change to Azzopardi and his girlfriend.

He told the court that in some cases the cashier would detect the money was false.

Abdilla admitted that he never got a single cent for his efforts, because the trio were arrested later that same evening.

Azzopardi was charged last March with masterminding a cocaine and heroin trafficking ring. He is accused of using violence against his underlings, who were forced to do his bidding.

Another witness, Godwin Gatt, told the court that he used to sell drugs he obtained from Azzopardi to sustain his own addiction.

Gatt owns a Gżira flat that was targeted in one of the police raids linked to Azzopardi’s network. Gatt is currently in jail.
He explained that an acid tank found in his apartment had been given to him by the accused as a fall-back position. The tank was never used before the raid that led to his arrest, Gatt testified.

Garage transformed

The various apartments and garages raided by the police, contained acid tanks so that drugs and other related objects could be destroyed in the eventuality of a police raid.

Apartments were heavily barricaded and the sale of drugs often occurred through small openings in the door.

Another person to take the witness stand was Carmel Chricop, the owner of a Birkirkara garage.

He explained that the garage had undergone a complete transformation after he had rented it to a tenant who went by the name of Jordan Azzopardi.

In court, Chircop pointed at Azzopardi and said he resembled his tenant most, although he had changed.

The landlord explained how he had signed a one-year lease agreement at a daily rent of €25, which was usually paid in cash by a young woman who dropped by.

Some six months into the agreement, Azzopardi had introduced his landlord to another man, who would be taking over.

Chircop told the court that one day, a neighbour informed him that there was smoke coming out through a ventilator.

Azzopardi had reassured him there was nothing wrong and that he had just burnt some papers. “I have a car worth some €30,000 in there,” Azzopardi told Chircop.

It was only after a call from the police that the landlord discovered what had actually been taking place inside his garage.

He described the presence of a massive metal structure to guard the entrance, a large quantity of shattered glass, a kitchen and bathroom, all which were not there before.

Chricop said since taking back the garage he has had truckloads of stone slabs removed from inside the premises.

A Range Rover and stolen iPhones

Another witness was Azzopardi’s friend, Jonathan Mangion, who testified about how the accused bought a Range Rover for €119,000.

The witness recalled how he had accompanied Azzopardi to a Burmarrad car dealer and lent his signature as buyer.

“They negotiated the price and I just signed… Since he’s my friend, I did not say no,” Mangion said.

A few thousands were paid on the deal, with the rest to be paid in €5,000 monthly instalments, explained the witness.

Witness Josef D’Amato, who is serving prison time after admitting to drug-related charges following raids on a Marsa farmhouse, was reluctant to testify.

D’Amato replied evasively despite repeated warnings by Magistrate Doreen Clarke that since his case was closed he had a duty to testify.

 “In this life, only death is obligatory,” the man retorted, adding that he had got hooked on drugs at the age of 14 and had no recollection of all he did since then. “Whatever I did in my life it was all because of drugs.”

He answered with a blunt “no”, when asked by the inspector whether he knew Jordan Azzopardi.

He stuck to his reply when it was pointed out that there were recorded call logs between him and the alleged drug lord. D’Amato’s testimony was suspended.

An Iranian student, who allegedly worked for Azzopardi was arrested in March and admitted to stealing €32,000 worth of iPhones.

He was handed a four-year effective jail term but could not yet testify against Azzopardi since an appeal was still pending.

However, Inspector Shawn Pawney testified that the man had refused to reveal the name of his supplier, saying only that he had committed the thefts in exchange for some €1,000 worth of heroin.

However, whilst at the police lockup, the man had spotted Jordan Azzopardi who had just been taken there after his arrest.

The man had called the police to his cell, saying that “he” [Azzopardi] was the man who probably had the stolen iPhones and laptops, also mentioning two of the alleged drug lord’s foot soldiers who had accompanied him to the various shops where the stolen cheque book had been put to use.

The case continues.

Inspectors Mark A. Mercieca, Justine Grech and Anthony Scerri prosecuted.

Lawyer Anne Marie Cutajar from the AG’s Office also prosecuted.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Cachia are counsel to both accused.