A man was remanded in custody on Thursday after pleading not guilty as alleged accomplice in an armed robbery at a Qormi pastizzeria just over three months ago.

Hubert Gatt, a 32-year old Gzira resident who worked at a family-run takeaway, was arrested as police investigations continued into the armed robbery that had taken place on March 30 at around 8pm.

Another man had been identified as the suspect thief and criminal proceedings in his regard are ongoing. 

However, further investigations pointed in the direction of Gatt as the driver who allegedly accompanied the suspect thief at the time of the violent hold up.

Gatt was ultimately tracked down and questioned by police, confirming that he was the person driving that car, the court was told.

Upon his arraignment today, he pleaded not guilty to complicity in the aggravated robbery as well as recidivism. 

Asked by defence lawyer Ishmael Psaila, the prosecution confirmed that a magisterial inquiry into the incident had been concluded.

A request for bail was strongly objected to not only in view of the gravity of the offence, but also because the accused had a “very voluminous” criminal record that rendered him unreliable. 

The prosecution also feared the risk of tampering with evidence since civil witnesses were still to testify. 

Those arguments were rebutted by the defence lawyer who pointed out that the charges dated back over three months and since then, a magisterial inquiry had been concluded.

This meant that all evidence had been gathered and preserved, argued Psaila, further highlighting the fact that the other suspect was currently behind bars. 

Without delving into the merits of the case, the lawyer argued that simply accepting a request for a lift should not have landed Gatt under charges of complicity.

Moreover, he was still presumed innocent and bail was the rule rather than the exception, the lawyer stressed. 

Yet after hearing submissions by both parties the court, presided over by magistrate Josette Demicoli, turned down the request for bail since the accused was not deemed sufficiently trustworthy and civilians were still to testify.

The court, however, directed the prosecution to summon those witnesses at the first sitting. 

Inspectors Lydon Zammit, Stephen Gulia and Kevin Pulis prosecuted. 

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