Woman ac­quit­ted of coun­ter­feit cig­a­rette charges

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

A 37-year-old woman has been ac­quit­ted from charges re­gard­ing the cir­cu­la­tion of coun­ter­feit cig­a­rettes, which were in a Sliema su­per­mar­ket vend­ing ma­chine.

The court felt that there was in­suf­fi­cient proof against the 37-yearold, Rita Spiteri, who lives in St Ju­lian’s. She faced a num­ber of charges re­volv­ing around 111,600 Roth­mans Blue cig­a­rettes, where ex­cise duty had not been paid, in ad­di­tion to the fal­si­fi­ca­tion of re­lated doc­u­ments.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors had con­ducted a search at the Sliema su­per­mar­ket. Con­fronted by the po­lice, an em­ployee ad­mit­ted to keep­ing some coun­ter­feit cig­a­rettes at his mother’s apart­ment, which was in Gzira. A su­per­mar­ket di­rec­tor later ad­mit­ted to ac­quir­ing sus­pect mer­chan­dise from Spiteri.

Au­thor­i­ties found some pack­ets of coun­ter­feit Roth­mans Blue cig­a­rettes in her home dur­ing a search.

The court heard how the woman col­lab­o­rated with the au­thor­i­ties and that she said she ob­tained the cig­a­rettes a few years ear­lier from a col­league who worked in a fac­tory in Marsa, where she was em­ployed. The court heard that she told the Sliema store di­rec­tor to pay 90c for them, which was be­low the LM1.15 price at the time.

Her for­mer col­league told the po­lice that she had re­ceived the cig­a­rettes from a rel­a­tive who had bought them from a man of Arab ori­gins, the court heard.

Mag­is­trate Con­suelo Scerri Her­rera said that the state­ment made by Spiteri to the po­lice was dur­ing her in­ter­ro­ga­tion was not ad­mis­si­ble, since she was not given the op­por­tu­nity to speak to a lawyer be­fore ad­mit­ting.

The court, given the ad­mis­si­ble ev­i­dence, said the pros­e­cu­tion did not prove a link be­tween the coun­ter­feit mer­chan­dise in Spiteri’s pos­ses­sion, and the cig­a­rettes she had al­legedly bought from her for­mer col­league seven years be­fore.

The court also noted that the su­per­mar­ket di­rec­tor who had al­legedly been in­volved in the il­le­gal trade did not de­liver any tes­ti­mony against the ac­cused. As such, the court con­cluded that the of­fences were not suf­fi­ciently proven.

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