A man has been jailed for 25 years and fined €40,000 after a jury found him guilty of having conspired to import 50 kilos of cannabis resin from Tunisia 12 years ago.

Egyptian national Ahmed El Fadali Enan, 52, stood passively at the dock as the jury delivered a guilty verdict of seven votes against two just after midnight on Friday, after some five hours of deliberation in chambers.

The verdict concluded a trial that kicked off on Tuesday and brings down the curtain on a criminal case which first started in January 2010, when El Fadali was first charged. 

The court heard how El Fadali had used the services of Tano Farrugia, a former Maltese footballer, as a middleman to help ship the drugs from Tunisia. Farrugia testified in the trial, telling the court that he had agreed to do the drug run for €15,000 as his detergent business was floundering and he needed money to pay off debts.

But the plan had gone awry and Farrugia ended up under arrest when Tunisian police swarmed the hotel room where he was staying and found the bags of cannabis resin he was going to ship to Malta.

Farrugia ended up spending three years in a Tunisian prison before being pardoned along with some 300 other prisoners by Tunisian caretaker President Moncef Marzouki on the second anniversary of his country’s revolution which brought about the so-called Arab Spring.

Farrugia’s brother also testified, telling the court that his brother had called him from Tunis to tell him he was in trouble, and asked him to speak to an “Ahmed” for help. But the man, who he identified as the accused, had refused to do so and told him “tell me if he’s caught so that I no longer send money abroad.”

When making submissions on punishment, defence lawyer Simon Micallef Stafrace pointed out that the guilty verdict was not unanimous and that more than 12 years had passed since his client was arrested.

However, the prosecution, led by AG lawyer Kevin Valletta, highlighted the substantial amount of drugs involved and called for maximum punishment.

Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera retired to chambers to deliberate on the punishment. She returned to the courtroom at 11:55pm and read out the hefty sentence, intended to send out a strong message against drug trafficking.

Drugs were undermining our society, especially as far as youths were concerned, said the court, also taking into consideration the large amount of drugs which would have been imported into the country had the conspirators’ plan succeeded.

AG lawyer Godwin Cini also prosecuted.

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