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Accused in Buġibba cocaine bust drove motorcycle at police before fleeing scene

An inspector from the police’s Drugs Squad has given a detailed account of the operation which resulted in the seizure of over 15kg of cocaine in Buġibba earlier this month, and the arrests of four men suspected of trafficking it.

The compilation of evidence against the defendants: two Sicilian men, aged 31 and 33 and two Maltese men, one aged 37 from Floriana and the other aged 43 from San Gwann, continued before magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras on Monday.

During today’s sitting, the court imposed a reporting ban on the names of the men, who stand accused of trafficking cocaine, in view of ongoing investigations. One of the Maltese defendants is also accused of breaching his bail conditions driving a motorcycle in a dangerous manner, being alleged to have intentionally collided with a police car before fleeing the scene on foot.

Police Inspector Mark Anthony Mercieca testified in the four separate compilations of evidence, telling the court how the police had received info about a planned drug transaction in Bugibba involving one of the Maltese men, who was already known to the police.

He recounted how, at around 3:25pm on September 12, he had noticed a red Honda motorcycle driving in Qawra. The motorcycle had caught his eye because it had been used by one of the Maltese defendants in the past.

It was observed to stop in front of a left-hand drive Fiat 500 in a parking lot. The bike drove off, before performing a U-turn and approaching the car on the driver’s side. A well-built man whom the inspector recognised as one of the defendants had emerged from the car and handed a yellow plastic bag to the rider.

The police moved in and arrested the men in the car but the motorcycle drove off.

Not long afterwards, the inspector had spotted the motorcyclist in a nearby block of garages. The rider suddenly turned the motorcycle and drove it directly at the police car, crashing into it before escaping on foot. He was later arrested at his girlfriend’s residence.

Inspector Mercieca explained how the police had used a set of keys they had found in his pocket to open one of the garages in the block in question. Inside it, they found the yellow bag that had been passed from the car to the bike. Five large blocks which were later confirmed to be cocaine were inside the bag, he said, and similar blocks were also found in the garage.

The second Maltese man was spotted in Buġibba, a few minutes after the first was arrested. Police officers had observed him, sitting on a motorcycle fiddling with his mobile phone. When the officers approached, he drove off at high speed, Inspector Merceica said. The man was tracked down and arrested later, in Mellieħa.

The yellow bag holding the drugs was subsequently identified as having been inside one of the defendant’s suitcases by the man’s girlfriend, who had not been aware of its contents, added the inspector.

Inspector Mercieca told the court that the second man’s motorcycle was registered to the same defendant’s mother.

He explained that the defendant worked for the Sicilians and had been instructed to wait in the area and approach a vehicle with Italian plates as it arrived. He told the police that 10 days before his arrest, he had met the same Sicilians and transported another 10kg of cocaine to the same garage.

Two women residing in a Buġibba hotel were also arrested for questioning in connection with the case.

Cross-examined by lawyer Kathleen Grima, who is representing one of the men, the inspector confirmed that the officers involved in the arrest had not been in uniform at the time.

A court-appointed expert who had examined the substances seized from the men confirmed the weight to be 15.1kg, and that preliminary tests were positive for cocaine. The street value of the drugs was estimated at €2 million, he said.

The case was adjourned to later this week

The men were variously assisted by lawyers Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri, Stefano Filletti, Maurice Meli, Kathleen Grima and Edmund Cuschieri.