Looking back on 2021 | Drugs, money laundering and other legal dramas


Year-end roundups are never easy, because reducing 365 days of news stories to 1,000 words means the end result always ends up doing little justice to the original stories. Of course, the many ongoing cases involving Yorgen Fenech, linked to the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, have of course overshadowed everything else in court this year. For logistical reasons, these cases will be dealt with in a separate article.

Here are some of the biggest court stories of 2021.

Arrests for money laundering at the center of the new FCID

The right-hand man of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri, as well as his father Alfio Schembri, a director of several companies in the Kasco group, and his business partner Malcolm Scerri, as well as the financial controller Robert Zammit were indicted in March several counts of money laundering, fraud, counterfeiting and corruption.

They were among a group of 11 accused, including former managing directors of Allied Newspapers, publishers of The Times of Malta.

The charges relate to the sale of a printing press to Allied Newspapers and Progress Press, as the court heard how US $ 5.5 million (€ 4.66 million) was paid back to Scerri, Adrian Hillman and Vince Buhagiar, the latter being two former senior executives at Allied Newspapers.

Schembri was among 11 people arrested and charged on March 20 in connection with the printing press scandal and a second judicial inquiry into alleged bribes.

Putting together the figures for money laundering

Money laundering accusations suddenly became the flavor of the year after Moneyval’s long-awaited report identified strategic gaps in the fight against money laundering, which led to Malta being on the list gray in June.

In addition to becoming standard in drug trafficking and corruption cases, money laundering charges were also laid along with charges of relatively minor offenses, such as cashing checks for third parties for money. a fee – a service offered by a number of small enterprising grocery stores.

A number of grocers and small business owners have, in fact, been brought to justice for such offenses, making it a permanent kind of joke among the legal profession, which often jokes that charges of money laundering of money are added to each minor violation to be mentioned. conviction figures. But the reality is far less entertaining for those who face not only criminal charges and lengthy proceedings, but also the mandatory freezing orders that come with them.

Major crimes

In February, three men believed to have supplied the bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia were taken into police custody.

Brothers Adrian and Robert Agius, known as Tal-Maksar, and their partner Jamie Vella have been arrested as murder suspect Vince Muscat pleaded guilty in court to the murder of Caruana Galizia.

Brothers Agius and Vella were among 10 people arrested in December 2017 during police raids. The three men had been released without charge, but George Degiorgio, his brother Alfred Degiorgio and Muscat were arraigned for the murder.

Muscat pleaded guilty in a plea deal with the prosecution in which he provided information in exchange for a lighter sentence. He was imprisoned for 15 years by Justice of the Peace Edwina Grima.

MaltaToday previously reported that Muscat, known as il-Koħħu, identified two suspected gang members to police.

Robert Agius and Jamie Vella, were then charged with providing the triggers with the explosive device.

The various compilations of evidence against Yorgen Fenech and those against brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio, also linked to the murder, continue and will be discussed elsewhere in this publication.

Murders

Bojan Cmelik was jailed for life, with periods of solitary confinement, last October, after being found guilty by a near unanimous jury verdict in the 2018 murder of Paceville impresario Hugo Chetcuti. He was unanimously found guilty of carrying a knife in public without permission or authorization from the police commissioner, as well as of assaulting and resisting police officers, who needed to stab him several times during his arrest.

In November, a unanimous verdict of not guilty cleared Okolo Innocent Okwudili of the murder of his Nigerian friend and compatriot Joseph Ezechi, who died from a single stabbing inflicted by Okwudili in a Qawra apartment in 2020. The murder was tried. to have been committed. in self-defense.

The trial court is still hearing evidence in the case against Mayumi Santos Patacsil, who was accused of fatally stabbing Marcelino Montalban Saraza, her partner for 4 years, in July. In December, the Magistrates’ Court ruled that it had seen sufficient evidence to place her under indictment. His case continues in January.

Major successes in police drug raids

2021 has been a very successful year for the drug police, who are pursuing ongoing prosecutions after carrying out large-scale raids and several arrests, disrupting criminal networks involved in drug trafficking. Record seizures of illegal drugs continue to be made, with 740 kg of cocaine intercepted en route to Slovenia in June and four men charged after the seizure of 136 kg of cannabis hidden in boxes of olives during a raid in a Burmarrad warehouse in August.

More recently, in December, an Italian was remanded in custody after being charged in connection with the discovery of 1.2 kg of cocaine and a total of 14 kg of cannabis at various properties.

El Hiblu case and amnesty campaign

The compilation of evidence against the three young people from Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea who are accused of hijacking an oil tanker who saved them from the sea while making the perilous crossing from Libya to Malta in 2019 will continue in 2019. during the new year. This despite the fact that magistrate Nadine Lia is progressing steadily in her unenviable task of hearing the hundred or so non-English speaking witnesses, often very reluctant, to testify on the rescue at sea.

The Migrants Commission, JRS Malta and the Justice and Peace Commission marked the second anniversary of the arrests of the young people by urging the authorities to drop the terrorism charges against them. In November 2020, Amnesty International also launched the world’s largest human rights campaign, calling on governments to right the injustices committed against those detained or persecuted in countries around the world, and presented “El Hiblu 3”. “No one should be punished for standing up for their own life and the lives of others,” Amnesty International researcher Elisa De Pieri wrote at the time.


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