Off-duty officer initiated police response leading to arrest of alleged drug smugglers
An observant police constable who was on holiday initiated the police response which led to the arrest of a Maltese woman and two Nigerian men who allegedly tried to smuggle 4kg of cannabis into Malta from Sicily.
A police constable testified in court yesterday that he was on holiday in Sicily when he saw a Toyota Vitz driven by a Maltese woman, carrying an African passenger who was a person of interest.
Rita Scicluna, a 41-year-old woman from Luqa and 27-yearold Osaro Osarenkhoe, who resides in Sicily, are on trial for conspiracy to smuggle drugs to Malta.
The officer told Magistrate Neville Camilleri that he saw the suspicious vehicle in Pozzallo. He proceeded to call up the CID and tip them off, given that Osaro was suspected of being involved with drugs.
He saw Osaro take out hand luggage from the boot of the car and go on to the ferry on foot. The woman then drove onto the catamaran.
The court heard how Scicluna’s Nigerian husband, Nicholas Obaseki, was waiting for them outside the ferry terminal in Malta, in a BMW with English numberplates.
He told the court that both Scicluna and Osaro were known to the police, who had been investigating the drug problem in Paceville for some time. He said that there is a notorious drugdealing spot in St George’s Bay.
The court was told by police that there was a group of Libyan and African male dealers in their car who would regularly approach tourists, offering to sell drugs, while a female would remain in the vehicle.
A police sergeant recognised the three accused in court, and said that police conducted searches on the men a number of times, however never found anything. He added that they suspected the drugs would be hidden in the area.
He claimed that Obaseki is one of the ringleaders.
Both Scicluna and Osaro were arrested when they landed in Malta, and so was the third man driving the BMW.
A Drugs Squad officer said that two plastic bags containing cannabis were found in the engine compartment of the vehicle driven by Scicluna.
While searches were being made on Scicluna, the police noted that her phone was ringing constantly, and that she was being called by Obaseki.
A search of Scicluna’s residence, which she shared with Obaseki, resulted in a crusher and traces of drugs being found.
Lawyers Albert Zerafa and Josette Sultana, defending Scicluna and Obaseki, said that they would not contest a possible decree which would declare sufficient prima facie evidence for a bill of indictment.
Lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Muscat however, appearing for Osaro, announced that they would fight this decision, and again requested bail, arguing that his client’s charges were identical to Scicluna who was out on bail due to her child. They also argued that no more civilian witnesses were to be heard.
Prosecuting Inspector Gabriel Micallef argued that Osaro has no known address.
As for arguments against prima facie, Dr Debono said that all the evidence presented just proves that his client was at a place at a certain time, adding that just because the accused spoke to someone carrying drugs on the catamaran that does not prove anything.
The Court said that it will issue its decree regarding bail in chamber, and will deal with the prima facie issue in the next sitting.