The managing director of a turnkey company handling major works at the American University of Malta campus was granted bail on Monday after being accused of injuring a works contractor during a heated argument a year ago.
Abdel Karim Ahmad, 42, known as Michael Costa, director of Unique Turnkey Ltd, was taken to court after a year-long search by the police.
The incident, on November 28, 2017, took place at the AUM campus in Cospicua after a disagreement on payment issues.
The injured man, Bessam Abdulhamid, an Iraqi national (who also features in another case over false banknotes), had filed a report, claiming he was injured by Mr Ahmad, who in turn, claimed that the other man had been armed with a revolver.
The police were initially unable to trace Mr Ahmad. His residence at Xgħajra had apparently been leased out to third parties, while officers calling at his office at Mqabba always drew a blank.
His employees met police at the gate and no one seemed to know the whereabouts.
Ultimately, police officers tracked down Mr Ahmad at a residence in Attard where he was arrested on Sunday.
He pleaded not guilty to causing grievous injuries and threatening the alleged victim.
Defence lawyer Manuel Mallia contested the validity of the arrest, arguing that the issue at stake had been a difficulty to notify Mr Ahmad, who was a frequent traveller. The lawyer insisted that there had been no need to arraign him under arrest.
Superintendent Jeffrey Azzopardi explained the scenario behind the arrest, highlighting the difficulties encountered in tracking down the suspect.
Inspector Eman Hayman, also prosecuting, further pointed out that he had been receiving repeated calls from the Police Internal Affairs Department questioning progress in pressing charges against Mr Ahmad.
“Personal freedom does not come cheap,” countered Dr Mallia, arguing that police had spoken to his client after the incident a year ago and that he had not been trying to evade notification.
Mr Ahmad also took the witness stand, explaining how on the day of the alleged aggression he had told police how he had been challenged to a fight by Mr Abdulhamid, who was known to carry a weapon.
Indeed, the latter would occasionally open his jacket, sometimes even jokingly, to reveal the revolver in his inner pocket, Mr Ahmad said, adding that he feared for himself and his family.
In fact, he had reported this to the police who had indeed retrieved weapons from Mr Abdulhamid's residence.
Asked by Magistrate Astrid May Grima why he had not changed the address on his ID card, Mr Ahmad said that works at the Attard property, where he had been living for the past two and a half years, were still ongoing and besides he had another property elsewhere.
“True. That was a lack on my part. Perhaps it was a mistake,” Mr Ahmad admitted, explaining how he had been using the alias of Michael Costa for personal reasons for the past 25 years.
After retiring to her chambers, the magistrate returned to pronounce a decree confirming the validity of the arrest.
A request for bail was not objected to by the prosecution so long as Mr Ahmad was placed under adequate conditions.
Bail was granted against a deposit of €3,000, a personal guarantee of €7,000 and a warning not to approach the alleged victim in any way.