Three immigrants and a Maltese businessman this morning pleaded not guilty to human trafficking while the two immigrants who reported them admitted to trying to leave Malta without a passport.

Sources said that meat supplier Angelo Bilocca, 31, of Hamrun, and the three immigrants, all from Mali - Adama Bagayoko, 20, Abdulaziz Seven, 30, and Musa Sangare, 23, allegedly organised a racket which sought illegal immigrants who wanted to escape and helped them to leave Malta.

Problems were encountered during a recent trip with around 25 people, and the migrants were brought back to Malta.

The migrants wanted their money back but their request was declined. Two of the migrants, Burme Sidibe and Dasina Brayou from the Ivory Coast, promptly reported the four men to the police.

The two Ivorians were this morning jailed for two months after pleading guilty to trying to leave Malta without a passport and without informing the authorities.

Mr Bilocca and his three alleged immigrant helpers were accused of human trafficking and conspiracy to commit a crime. Mr Bilocca was also charged with being a relapser.

Mr Bilocca was granted bail against a deposit of €5,000 and a personal guarantee of €25,000 after the court heard that he is the only person within his business licensed to take animals for slaughter.

The three immigrants were remanded in custody.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit upheld a request by the prosecution to freeze the assets of the accused.

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