Two witnesses claimed there had been numerous attempts to make them change their mind about testifying in the case of alleged drug kingpin Jordan Azzopardi, as more alarming claims were made on Thursday.
A vivid picture of Mr Azzopardi's former lifestyle was painted by two witnesses as they testified.
They took the witness stand in the compilation of evidence against Mr Azzopardi and a mother-of-five currently facing drug-related and fake currency charges since their arrest in March.
Jason Zammit, currently serving time behind bars, took the witness stand under the watchful gaze of Mr Azzopardi, seated at the dock alongside the unnamed mother and co-accused also undergoing compilation proceedings.
Mr Zammit, a self-confessed drug addict, recalled one episode when he had allegedly suffered a fit while visiting the drug lord’s Birkirkara garage and yet none of the 10 persons or so present at the time had dared call an ambulance after the boss himself had forbidden them to do so.
“I was unconscious at the time,” the witness explained, “but when I regained my senses I saw Jordan, calmly sitting on a footstool, working at his bills. As though nothing was out of the ordinary.”
Regaining his composure after a brief pause, visibly overtaken by emotion, the witness went on to describe how on that occasion, someone had slipped a spoon into his mouth to prevent suffocation during the fit.
It was one of the 15 or so times that the witness visited the Birkirkara garage, a large place with seating cushions where addicts could go to buy their drug dose, monitored by cameras, with lots of metal fixtures and a pellet of stone blocks always ready at hand “in case the need arose”.
“It was like a lotto booth,” the man said, explaining that the inner end of the premises were closed off behind a metal grate in such manner that “the customer could not speak to the person on the other side”.
“He employed people at a wage,” the witness went on, saying that there was a worker at the door and another at the inner quarters.
Mr Zammit had first met Mr Azzopardi some two years ago at Mosta and had been enticed to work for the man by an offer to get 20 grams of drugs on loan.
That was how he got hooked, as the dose sometimes went up to 50 grams and even 100 grams at times.
“Did you fear testifying today?” prosecuting Inspector Mark Anthony Mercieca asked. “Not at all,” came the sharp reply.
Yet the witness explained that he had been approached by several inmates recently, all telling him to change his testimony.
“Many came to me. He kept insisting,” said Mr Zammit, referring to Mr Azzopardi. “I just ignore them.”
As the first witness walked out under escort, his place was taken by Luke Vella, a young man and former customer of Mr Azzopardi, who claimed that the drug lord owed him money.
Mr Vella had rented the Pietà premises to set up a ‘BnB’, the court was told.
However, while serving time behind bars, Mr Azzopardi had allegedly taken over the premises, converting them into one of his drug stores.
Visibly agitated witness claims threats
Once regaining his personal freedom, Mr Vella had squarely asked the drug lord for €10,000 to repair the place that had been targeted in one of the police raids.
“I’ll give you €20,000,” Mr Azzopardi had allegedly replied. None of that money had ever been pocketed by Mr Vella who, however, claimed he had recently been bombarded by calls from a third party offering €10,000 and a further €10,000 after Thursday’s court hearing.
“I'm speaking out because I've had enough. They've been threatening me even up until last week,” said the man, visibly agitated.
During one such call, he claimed to have been addressed by the woman seated at the dock, prompting some shaking of the head by the subject of his allegation.
The witness recalled how he would visit the drug havens, let in by security, to get his dose of cannabis.
“It was like a postal office. They catered for everyone’s needs. There was pop, smack, cannabis… You asked for it and you would be served.”
The man had also been asked by the drug kingpin himself to find a buyer for his rifle, a small machine gun and an AK 47, the witness claimed.
Referring to one of Jordan’s workers, a man “who ended up a junkie and endured several beatings” at the hands of his boss, the witness recalled how he would often come across this man, locked up inside a room “like an animal” at one of the kingpin's premises.
He also claimed that the drug lord earned a quarter of a million euros per month and would drive to his havens in a white Range Rover worth some €125,000. Upon his arrival, drug supplies would be replenished.
As the sitting came to a close, Inspector Mercieca informed the court, presided over by magistrate Doreen Clarke, that in view of the revelations made on Thursday, the female co-accused was to be re-arrested immediately and investigations into the fresh allegations in her regard were to be undertaken.
As Mr Azzopardi was escorted out of the room under tight security, his partner at the dock expressed shock and disbelief upon realising she was about to forfeit her personal freedom once again.
As an officer and other armed securities watched over her, the woman attempted to use her mobile phone. However, the inspector would have none of it.
“You’re under arrest now!” came the stern warning, as he swiftly removed the gadget from the woman’s hands.
The case continues.
Lawyers Alfred Abela and Rene Darmanin were counsel to the accused.