Catamaran drug trafficking case: Enough prima facie evidence for indictment
A magistrate ruled yesterday that there is sufficient evidence to indict three people who were charged with importing cannabis to Malta from Sicily.
Rita Scicluna, 41, of Luqa, her Nigerian husband, Nicholas Obaseki, 28, and Osaro Osarenkhoe, 27, are accused of conspiring to import four kilos of cannabis on the Malta-Sicily catamaran last month.
The court heard last week how a sniffer dog had found the drugs, which were hidden under the bonnet of a car Mrs Scicluna was driving off the catamaran.
Mrs Scicluna had been spotted with Mr Osarenkhoe both on and off the ferry while her husband, Mr Obaseki, was waiting outside the terminal.
Lawyer Franco Debono, appearing for Osarenkhoe, insisted that there was no evidence to support the prima facie decree.
“My client was seen next to Mrs Scicluna on the catamaran and in a car that was never under his control. This is no proof of anything.” He said that while the police might have had reasonable suspicion to arrest the man, they should have followed that up with a proper investigation yet they (the police) had not presented any evidence to support their claims. “The police got stuck at suspicion stage. This is pure conjecture and supposition.”
Dr Debono argued that, in order to place someone under indictment, the police had to at least prove probability. “Prima facie is itself a low level of proof, but it still needs some evidence,” the lawyer said.
The fact that he was in the company of someone that was ‘known to the police’ was still not proof of anything. Investigators had also confirmed that they had found nothing during searches on the person of the accused.
Dr Debono said the prosecution had not proved any link between Mr Osarenkhoe and the drugs – there were no phone taps, text messages or any other evidence to support the claim of conspiracy to import drugs.
Inspector Gabriel Micallef, prosecuting, said suspicion had been raised by Mr Osarenkhoe’s movements. He said the prosecution was convinced of the guilt of the accused. The Inspector added that the investigation was ongoing and evidence was still being collected.
Dr Debono again asked why call records the prosecution had referred to had not been exhibited and accused the police of pursuing a ‘fishing expedition’ against Mr Osarenkhoe.
Magistrate Neville Camilleri said that, from what the court had heard during previous sittings and from documents exhibited in court there was sufficient prima facie evidence to place the three accused under a bill of indictment.
The case continues in November.