Three months after Paceville entrepreneur and social media personality Mohamed Ali Ahmed Elmushraty was arraigned, prosecutors are struggling to produce evidence of the intricate drug trafficking web they say he headed. 

Little progress was marked on Tuesday afternoon when Elmushraty, known as ‘Lilu King’, was escorted back to court from prison.

‘Lilu King’ has been held in preventive custody since his arraignment in May, when he pleaded not guilty to charges linking him to organized crime, mainly revolving around drug trafficking and money laundering. 

Police witnesses subsequently testified that Elmushraty was also wanted in Libya to face murder charges. Authorities in Tripoli had contacted police in Malta to flag the suspect’s wanted status, they said. 

Elmushraty was arrested along with two others during a drug raid in St Julian’s.

Yet no drugs were found in his possession and despite months of surveillance by the police, investigators were unable to obtain the necessary evidence to issue drug-related charges against the accused.

The issue has repeatedly cropped up throughout the ongoing compilation of evidence, with Elmushraty’s lawyer, Franco Debono, seeking to poke holes in the prosecution’s case by questioning evidence of the drug trafficking allegations underpinning the money laundering charge. 

Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech appeared to lose patience with the prosecution’s approach on Tuesday. 

“What are we trying to prove here?” the magistrate asked after the first witness had finished testifying.

The man, a Libyan businessman, was questioned about a Mercedes G Wagon that Lilu King was often seen driving. 

The witness said he bought the car from a third party back in his homeland in January 2020 and had paid for it out of his own pocket. 

He said that he had the car brought to Malta in late 2021 but garaged it after Transport Malta told him that he would have to pay €50,000 to have it registered locally. 

He produced in court several documents, including those obtained from Libyan transport authorities as well as a service report for the vehicle, which prompted the Magistrate to question the relevance thereof. 

Lilu King also spent time living in the Portomaso apartment that the witness rented, when the latter moved in with his own parents. Rent on that flat was relatively cheap, €1500 a month, only because the owner was a friend of the witness, the court was told. 

“So Elmushraty had nothing to do with the car,” asked the defence.

“No nothing. Everybody used that car.” 

The prosecution next summoned two female shop assistants working at The Point. 

One of them identified the accused with a smile, explaining that she recognized him as a customer at the store but could not say much else since she had never served him. 

The other witness working at the store that sold clothes, shoes and accessories, said that she only assisted the accused once. 

“He bought a pair of shoes. Worth €150 maximum,” which he had paid for in cash. 

Faced with such dearth of evidence, Magistrate Frendo Dimech minuted that the court “deplored” the fact that in spite of repeatedly being told about alleged money laundering and proceeds of organized crime and drug trafficking, inspectors from the Drug Squad had failed to produce evidence to that effect.

They were supposed to prove the “intricate web of persons involved in drug trafficking headed by the accused, but for various sessions no evidence of progress in this purported investigation was produced.”

Prosecutors were still to identify several other suspects, who so far had been referred to in court as “Alpha 1,” Alpha 2” and so forth.

Yet to date, the drugs police were still keeping those “identities hidden even from the court,” minuted the Magistrate. 

“And all this when a person is behind bars…We’re taking the courts and justice for a ride… This is also a waste of taxpayers’ money…. That is why money laundering cases drag on. And then the courts get the blame, even on the justice scoreboard,” observed the Magistrate. 

Whilst acknowledging the “slow progress” AG lawyer Antoine Agius Bonnici explained that such complex investigations needed a step by step approach. 

Organized crime and drug offences take time to prove, argued the lawyer. 

The sitting was wrapped up with submissions on bail which the prosecution objected to.

Elmushraty had travelled abroad while out on bail in separate proceedings and thus proved rather untrustworthy. 

Moreover, given his connections abroad, the fear that he might abscond was real.

However, those objections were promptly rebutted by Debono who argued that Elmushraty had returned to Malta when he travelled abroad. 

Others like Ryan Schembri, Patrick Spiteri and Adrian Hillman had to be brought back on the strength of a European Arrest Warrant, went on the lawyer, citing those names by way of a comparison. 

“And yet they got bail,” Debono added, arguing that his client was willing to abide by any bail conditions the court deemed appropriate.

“The prosecution clearly is finding it difficult to produce evidence…. his [Elmushraty’s] only wrong was to show off on social media. But that’s no crime.”

The prosecution’s manner of producing evidence was “totally unacceptable,” finished off Debono, appealing to the court “to serve justice to all.”

The court was to decree on bail in chambers. 

The case continues in October. 

Inspectors Tonjoe Farrugia, Mark Anthony Mercieca and Alfredo Mangion are prosecuting together with AG lawyers Agius Bonnici and Dejan Darmanin.Lawyers Marion Camilleri and Francesca Zarb are also defence counsel. 

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