A panel beater who was abducted in broad daylight in Rabat has told a court that he was punched in the face by his kidnappers, who threatened to chop off his finger and rape his sister.
The panel beater was testifying on Friday against Christian Borg, 28, Thorne Mangion, 27, Tyson Grech, 26, Burton Azzopardi, 20 and Jeremy Borg, 20, who were remanded in custody upon their arraignment ten days ago after pleading not guilty to charges.
Carlos Schembri was in his car on Triq it-Tagħbija at 3pm on January 21, waiting for his sister to arrive, when the abduction occurred.
Schembri told the court that a male voice ordered him to “get out”. Jeremy Borg appeared beside him.
A white Peugeot van then approached. Christian Borg was driving it and the other three accused together with Luke John Milton - a sixth suspect who could not face charges as he is in hospital - were with the Borg.
Schembri said he wrapped his hands around the steering wheel, trying to hold on, as his aggressors punched him and ordered him out of the car.
He was eventually bundled into the van and told to lie low on the seatless floor. Milton sat beside the driver while the other three sat next to the victim in the back, with Christian Borg driving.
His abductors wanted information about some stolen vehicle, he said.
“Whenever I replied that I didn’t know, I got kicked,” said the slight-framed witness.
All the while, Milton browsed through his mobile phone, searching for information.
The van came to a stop at Kordin, with Schembri saying the men then transferred him into a blue Mercedes van with no windows.
Threats of violence
Once inside, the interrogation resumed and then came the threats.
His kidnappers allegedly threatened to chop off his finger and rape his sister, telling him that he would not make it back home that night until he supplied the information they were after. His tooth was knocked out when he was kicked by Tyson, the witness told the court.
Schembri was then taken to another vehicle, a white Renault van, and told he would now have to settle things with “Kukku”.
The witness said he did not know who that was.
Escaping in Fgura
At one point, the van stopped and one of the men asked the others for money to buy diesel.
Sensing that this was his best chance to escape, the victim tugged at a lever, opened the back door and slipped out, running blindly as fast as he could away from the petrol station, wiping off the blood from his face.
He made it to the Fgura police station and was told to go to the Paola health centre.
On the way there, he spotted the accused driving by in a small vehicle but managed to hide from them. He then returned to the police station and waited for his mother to arrive.
Defence lawyers said that Schembri had stolen six cars while working for Borg's car company, No Deposit Cars Malta.
The victim’s mother also testified on Friday. She said she found her son bruised and battered at the police station.
The following day, she received a call from a man who introduced himself as “Tyson”.
He told her that her son “had not got away with it. What we didn’t do to him we will do to his family”.
The woman said that there had also been messages to her daughter and someone had also approached her other son who warned her not to interfere because “these people have guts”.
Two granted bail
At the end of a four-hour sitting, after lengthy cross-examination and submissions on bail, the court, presided over by magistrate Monica Vella, upheld the request in respect of Mangion and Azzopardi against a deposit of €3,000, a personal guarantee of €5,000 each, signing the bail book twice weekly and abiding by a curfew between 11pm and 6am.
Both were ordered not to approach the victim and his family in any way.
The other three co-accused will have their bail applications decided after next week’s sitting.
Altercation outside courtroom
But one of those three, Jeremy Borg, landed a three-day jail term because of the way he addressed the magistrate when she ordered him back to the hall after he swore at the victim and his relatives as they waited outside the courtroom.
The magistrate handed him a three-day jail term, that he will serve after his release on bail or after serving any other jail term, and ordered the police commissioner to investigate his behaviour outside the courtroom and if necessary take criminal action.
Inspectors Roderick Attard and Sarah Zerafa prosecuted, assisted by AG lawyers Karl Muscat and Francesco Refalo.
Lawyers Giannella de Marco, Gianluca Caruana Curran, Stephen Tonna Lowell, Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri, Michael Sciriha, Roberto Spiteri, Matthew Xuereb, Alex Scerri Herrera and Jason Grima are defence counsel.
Edward Gatt and Shaun Zammit appeared on the victim's behalf.