Four men were jailed today for having organised the illegal trafficking of 25 Chinese persons to Italy in 2005.

The Chinese persons had been discovered by the Italian authorities and sent back to Malta.

Anthony Muscat, of Birkirkara, was jailed for 18 months and fined €3,000 while his brothers Simon, and Lawrence Muscat, of Mosta and Timothy Gauci, of Attard were jailed for 22 months and fined €5,000 each. 

Defence lawyers Franco Debono and Jose' Herrera said they would be appealing the judgement. The four accused had been liable for a maximum jail term of 11 years.

During the arraignment, Police Inspector Mario Haber had told the court that a hand held global positioning system, found in the possession of one of four men, marked a voyage from Malta to the location in Sicily where the Chinese immigrants were apprehended by Italian authorities.

The device recorded a continuous trip from Marsascala to Marzamemi, Sicily, and back to Malta.

The Italian authorities had arrested the Chinese immigrants in Marzamemi on the same night in which the four men were arrested by the Malta police.

The four men had pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting Chinese immigrants travel to Sicily by boat on the night of March 11, 2005.

Inspector Haber explained that on March 11 he was informed that a power boat, probably used for the transportation of illegal migrants, was seen near St Thomas Bay in Marsascala at 7.40 p.m.

At about 8.30 p.m. he was informed that a van and a trailer were spotted near a Marsascala church and, at about midnight, Anthony Muscat was arrested when the police saw him approach the van.

Some time later a power boat was seen about 100 metres offshore and the authorities signalled to the people on the boat to berth.

When the boat reached the shore Simon and Lawrence Muscat and Mr Gauci were arrested and taken to the police headquarters for questioning. Simon Muscat was in possession of the  handheld GPS and a satellite mobile phone. 

Chinese Shi Chengyong explained to the court how he had arrived in Malta on February 5, 2005 after having been told that the island offered the opportunity to work and study. When he got here he realised it was not as it had been described and heard that several Chinese were moving to Sicily.

One day, while he was on the seashore, a man approached him and told him that if he wanted to travel to Sicily he should phone him to book a place. The man also told him not to renew his visa when it expired and that the trip would cost $2,000.

After thinking about it Mr Shi called the man to book a place and some time later he called him to say that his visa would soon expire. The man told him to meet him by the seaside and took him to a flat where he remained until March 11.

That night he and other Chinese people were taken to the shore and guided onto a boat. He recalled having to pass through a hole to get inside the dark cabin.

There were about 20 other Chinese people, men and women, but he could not see their faces. There were also three hooded people, who he thought were men.

He said that during the trip he was sea sick. A few hours after the boat arrived in Sicily he was caught by the police and sent back to Malta where he was detained at the police headquarters. 

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