Last updated 9.37pm
Five men were charged in court on Monday evening of having abducted another man in a case that stemmed from the theft of cars.
The case allegedly happened in Rabat on Friday when the accused bundled their victim into a van and drove off towards Paola.
Their victim managed to escape at a petrol station and call the police.
Christian Borg, 28 of Swieqi, Thorne Mangion, 27 of Qormi, Tyson Grech, 26 of Senglea, Burton Azzopardi, 20 of Cospicua and Jeremy Borg, 20, of Qormi were all accused of abduction, holding the victim against his will, stealing up to €1,000 in cash, stealing a mobile phone, criminal conspiracy and making threats beyond the limits of provocation.
Christian Borg was separately accused of recidivism. Burton Azzopardi was accused of breaching two bail decrees and recidivism.
Jeremy Borg was charged with breach of bail, while under suspended sentence and recidivism. All pleaded not guilty.
Inspector Roderick Attard told the court that the victim recounted to police that he was abducted from his garage in Rabat. The victim knew all of the accused, having previously had a working relationship - all the accused work in the car hire business, except Jeremy Borg.
The police inspected footage that confirmed his version. The suspects were interrogated and the victim identified each one of them.
Lawyer Giannella de Marco asked if the police had also received a report of theft of six vehicles by the alleged victim.
The inspector said the victim had allegedly stolen some six cars and vans from the accused and used to work for one of them.
De Marco asked whether the police had found out that the alleged victim was actually being taken to the police station. The victim’s version and justification of the arrest must be seen in the whole picture, she insists.
Lawyer Michael Schriha also asked whether the alleged victim had told the police why he was allegedly abducted. She asked whether the police triggered an investigation into the alleged thefts.
The inspector replied that the police are to investigate the alleged victim and a magisterial inquiry has been opened into this case.
Some of the lawyers contested the validity of the arrests, insisting that the accused must be given their rights upon arrest.
Lawyer Karl Muscat from the Attorney General's Office, said the men were arrested on reasonable suspicion of having committed a serious crime. The evidence had been taken to a magistrate and arrest warrants were issued.
Those warrants were handed to the suspects. In those same warrants, the reasons for arrest are spelled out. They did not reply to questions during interrogation.
The magistrate declared the arrests valid.
All five requested bail, with the prosecution objecting, saying they faced serious charges, not least abduction, making them liable for a maximum jail term of 12 years. Muscat also pointed out that some of the accused were accused of breaching bail.
De Marco replied that the gravity of the charges alone was not enough to justify denial of bail. And the charges were not punishable with life terms. Moreover, there was a report about this alleged victim about the theft of six cars and he was the subject of a magisterial inquiry.
The lawyers made arguments for the granting of bail for all the accused.
After a short recess, bail was denied owing to the gravity of the charges, with the magistrate explaining that she was not convinced that the accused would abide by bail conditions.
Lawyers Giannella de Marco, Gianluca Caruana Curran, Jason Grima, Michael Sciriha, Roberto Spiteri, Alex Scerri Herrera, Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri and Matthew Xuereb appeared for the accused.
Lawyers Karl Muscat and Francesco Refalo from the Attorney General’s Office, and police inspectors Roderick Attard and Sarah Kathleen Zerafa prosecuted.
Recent abduction cases
In recent years, three shocking cases of alleged abduction reached the courts, however, the crime still remains infrequent in Malta.
Three suspects were last year charged after they allegedly bundled a man into a car, tied him to a tree in a woodland and then held him against his will in a Sliema hotel in an attempt to extort money from him.
Their plan was foiled when they were preparing to move him to another location and were caught after the victim managed to escape and call for help.
In November 2020, a terrorised kidnapped woman was found inside a Buġibba apartment and her alleged abductors were arraigned.
The 50-year-old was snatched from her Msida home and a ransom was demanded from her son, who was told he would not see his mother again unless he paid up.
The third case involves a Syrian man who was allegedly abducted by his compatriots and told he would be raped, injected with drugs and footage posted on social media unless he left Malta.