A shop owner who was meant to receive a 113 kilo consignment of khat were it not intercepted by customs officials, was denied bail after pleading not guilty to importation of the illegal stimulant.
Abdinur Shucayb Mohammed, a 34-year old Somali national living at Msida, was accused in court on Sunday of importing, producing, selling or dealing in the drug under circumstances indicating that it was not intended for personal use.
He was further charged with recidivism.
The court heard how customs officials had come across the suspicious ‘henna’ consignment whilst inspecting the airport’s cargo sheds.
Closer inspection revealed that the green substance inside the pallet, full of boxes labeled as henna leaves, did not match the consistency nor the smell of the product indicated on the label.
The police drug squad was alerted and a magisterial inquiry kicked off.
Subsequent tests confirmed that the substance consisted of 118 kilos of khat, an illegal substance.
Prosecuting Inspectors Justine Grech and Alfredo Mangion objected to bail in view of the serious nature of the charges.
They also pointed out that the accused had landed previous convictions on drug trafficking charges, thus reflecting negatively upon his character.
Defence lawyers Franco Debono and Francesca Zarb made reference to a particular provision under the Medical and Kindred Professions Ordinance which dealt specifically with offences related to the plant Khat.
That provision, article 40B, had been enacted in 2014 and before its introduction the courts had delivered various judgments where khat was considered to mean ‘salad.’
In any case, given the kind of drug, maximum punishment was less, the lawyers argued, pointing out further that the accused had been living in Malta since 2009 and had both family and work ties here.
However, after hearing submissions by both parties the court, presided over by magistrate Victor George Axiak, turned down the request and remanded the man in custody.