Two men who allegedly made off with cash in an armed robbery at a Għargħur office last month, were remanded in custody upon arraignment on Wednesday.

Marin Minev, 33 unemployed, and Miroslav Mihalev, a 34-year-old mechanic, both Bulgarian nationals, pleaded not guilty to the violent theft which took place on March 22 at an office in Triq Stiefnu Zerafa.

Prosecuting Inspector Christina Delia told the court that at about 10am on the day of the crime, two men wearing crash helmets barged into the premises, ordered a person who was present to hand over the money and made off with an indeterminate amount of cash.

Working on CCTV footage from the site of the robbery and information gathered from the alleged victims as well as other witnesses who were in the vicinity when the incident took place, investigators followed the tracks of a particular vehicle.

They were told that right after the holdup, a revving sound was heard and a motorbike with two riders was seen driving off.

Through surveillance cameras, police followed that vehicle all the way to Qormi, right up to Triq it-Tensila where Mihalev lived.

Footage recorded prior to the robbery showed the suspects driving along Naxxar Road and on to Gharghur.

They parked the bike in a narrow road between two showrooms in Mosta, then crossed the street and entered Pama Supermarket where the security officer at the door ordered one of the men to pull down his hoodie.

The man was identified as Minev who had a distinctive tattoo.

His companion wore no helmet and no hoodie. He was easily identified as Mihalev who had been arrested over a separate incident some months previously.

The men bought a can of spray paint and headed back to the motorbike.

Mihalev sprayed his helmet and bike with black spray, covering stickers and other distinctive markings.

That evidence triggered arrest warrants against the two suspects who were taken into custody early on Tuesday morning when police called at their homes.

On Wednesday the two men were escorted to court, jointly facing charges of aggravated theft, being in possession of a weapon at the time of the holdup and wilfully damaging third party property.

Minev was separately charged with relapsing.

Mihalev was separately charged with committing the offences during the operative period of a suspended sentence handed down last December.

Assisted by a Bulgarian interpreter, both pleaded not guilty. Their lawyers requested bail.

Lawyer Franco Debono asked whether a magisterial inquiry had been called.

The prosecution confirmed that an inquiry was started right after the robbery and investigations were still ongoing.

Asked whether the alleged victims had already testified before the inquiring magistrate, the prosecution could not confirm that.

The request for bail was objected to because proceedings are still at a very early stage and investigations are ongoing, even because a third party was mentioned by the suspects during interrogation.

The wife and partner of the co-accused were asked to testify, both confirming that if granted bail each accused would live at the family home.

After hearing their brief testimonies and submissions by the parties, Magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace refused bail and remanded both men in custody.

AG lawyer Brandon Bonnici and Inspectors Christine Delia and Joseph Mallia prosecuted.

Lawyers Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri and Adreana Zammit were counsel to Minev.

Lawyer Adriano Spiteri was legal aid counsel to Mihalev.

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