A key witness in a drug conspiracy trial and his alleged associate were on Friday taken to the Birżebbuġa site where a heroin deal eleven years ago was foiled by a police sting operation.
The onsite visit wrapped up a long day in the ongoing trial of Kenneth Duru, a 43-year old Nigerian national who stands accused of heroin trafficking.
Duru was arrested at a Birzebbuga playground in June 2010 after he met with a plainclothes police officer impersonating a drug courier.
The undercover sting was organised after police intercepted a 19-year-old Spanish national at the airport carrying 1kg of heroin one day earlier.
Justo Ernesto Bellver Bayo was caught after airport officials noted that he was wearing “unusually heavy” shoes. The drugs were found hidden inside them.
Bayo had decided to cooperate with police in a controlled delivery which led to the arrest of Duru and his alleged associate Theophilus Nwadike.
Nwadike pleaded guilty to charges last year, forgoing a trial by jury and instead being sentenced to an eight-year jail term and a €25,000 fine following a plea bargaining exercise upheld by the court.
Nwadike testified in Duru’s trial on Friday and was later taken to the Birżebbuġa playground, accompanied by the judge and jury in the case.
“Which is the true version?”
The case revolves around a conspiracy that was allegedly orchestrated by a man named ‘Daniel,’ who Nwadike says he met at a detention centre.
Testifying under cross-examination by defence lawyer Joseph Mifsud, Nwadike said that he had lost contact with Daniel after the two left the Ħal Far open centre years ago. ‘Daniel’ had already left the island when he left the centre, Nwadike said.
Around three years later, on June 16, 2010, he received a call from 'Daniel' asking for a favour - to take delivery of a drug parcel at Birżebbuġa and to pay the courier €2,000.
Duru’s lawyer Mifsud pointed out that in previous testimony to the inquiring magistrate, Nwadike had claimed that he met ‘Daniel’ before the latter left Malta and that the two had exchanged numbers.
“Which is the true version?” the lawyer asked.
But the witness insisted that he had no idea how 'Daniel' had got his number, saying that he had called some six or seven times between June 16 and 18, the day of the planned delivery.
A €1,000 shortfall
Nwadike said that he had not told 'Daniel' that he only had €1,000 in cash.
So he had roped in Duru to source the other €1,000 for the courier, telling him that they were to collect a bag of drugs “as a favour for a friend.”
Duru was a fellow migrant he had originally met at Valletta and had told him that he had been deported from Switzerland back to Malta after having been involved in drugs there.
The two became friends and Duru often went to Nwadike’s home.
“He came whenever he felt like. He came as a friend, as a brother.”
But Duru did not know 'Daniel', the witness said.
‘Walking round in circles’
On the morning of June 18, Nwadike and Duru met at Birżebbuġa.
Duru handed over €1,000 in €50 notes to Nwadike, who counted them and slipped them into his pocket with the other €1,000.
Then the duo hovered in the vicinity of the Sea Breeze Hotel while Daniel relayed instructions to Nwadike on the phone, describing the courier as a “white-skinned young Spanish boy” who was to exit the hotel and head to the bus stop opposite the church.
When a young man fitting the description appeared, Nwadike told Duru to join the courier at the bus stop and collect the bag filled with heroin. When that was done, Duru was to direct the courier to Nwadike, who would hand over the money.
Nwadike watched as Duru sat talking to the stranger. A bus drove past, temporarily blocking his view of the duo at the bus stop.
At that point, Daniel called and told him to check whether the bag had been handed over.
But when Nwadike tried calling Duru, there was no reply.
“I was walking round in circles. I was confused. I didn’t know what to do,” testified Nwadike, recalling how he had caught a bus back to Ħal Far from another stop opposite the bay.
The next time he saw Duru would be at the police depot.
Aboard the bus, Nwadike looked out through the rear window. He spotted the flashing light of a police car.
Sensing trouble, he flung his mobile phone and SIM card out of the window, then quickly removed his baseball cap, blue t-shirt and capleton, stuffing the items by the side of the bus seat.
Nwadike was wearing a second t-shirt beneath the blue one and hoped to avoid being identified by a policeman who soon boarded the bus.
But his luck ran out when the officer caught sight of the bundle of clothing tucked away by the passenger who was promptly hauled out of the bus and taken into custody. The items stuffed into the bus seat were presented to him in court on Friday.
Nwadike’s testimony proceeded on Friday afternoon until Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera conducted a visit to Birżebbuġa in the presence of jurors, lawyers and other parties including Nwadike and Duru, viewing various locations featuring in the trial.
AG lawyers Kevin Valletta and Kaylie Bonett are prosecuting.Lawyer Joseph Mifsud is defence counsel.Lawyer Marc Sant assisted Nwadike.
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