A man who faced trial by jury for his alleged role in a drug trafficking conspiracy eleven years ago has been cleared by the courts while his alleged associate and key witness at the trial is to be investigated for perjury.

Jurors delivered their verdict in the trial of Kenneth Duru, a 43-year old Nigerian national who was arrested at a Birzebbugia playground on June 18, 2010, after meeting a plainclothes policeman impersonating a drug courier.

Police had organized the sting operation the day after intercepting a 19-year old Spanish national, Justo Ernesto Bellver Bayo, ferrying 1kg of heroin inside the shoes he was wearing when landing at the Malta International Airport.

The teenager had cooperated with the police in the controlled delivery which resulted in the arrest of Duru and his alleged associate Theophilus Nwadike.

Bayo had subsequently admitted his role in the conspiracy, was sentenced and after having served time behind bars, left the island and could no longer be traced.

However, his court testimony was read out at Duru’s trial, shedding light upon the planned drug deal and the role of each of the players allegedly involved.

Whilst awaiting trial, Duru and Nwadike had vanished from the island after being granted bail. Both wanted men were eventually tracked down in Italy in 2017 and were brought back to Malta to face justice in 2018.

Nwadike, who pleaded guilty last year, forgoing a trial by jury, was sentenced to an eight-year jail term and a €25,000 fine following a plea bargaining exercise upheld by the Criminal Court.

Last week, Nwadike took the witness stand against his alleged associate, describing how Duru had covered the €1,000 shortfall for a total €2,000 to be paid to Bayo upon delivery of the drug parcel.

He testified how he had been receiving instructions on the phone from a certain ‘Daniel,’ the person who allegedly orchestrated the deal.

Although ‘Daniel’ knew of Duru’s presence at the scene, the two did not know each other, Nwadike insisted, stating further that he had no idea how ‘Daniel’ had obtained his number.

He had met ‘Daniel’ at a detention centre but the two had parted company and lost all contact until June 16, 2010 when ‘Daniel’ had called Nwadike, asking for a favour.

Parcel delivery

That favour was to take delivery of a drug parcel from a “Spanish boy” who was to transport the parcel from Amsterdam, take up accommodation at the Sea Breeze Hotel at Birzebbugia and then meet Nwadike at a nearby playground the following day.

Throughout his hours-long testimony, Duru’s lawyer pounced upon various inconsistencies, highlighting instances where Nwadike’s version did not tally with his police statement and previous testimony before the Magistrates’ Courts.

“Which is the true version?” Mifsud questioned, pressuring the witness.

The jurors finally retired to chambers on Wednesday afternoon after being addressed by Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera who presided over the trial that started on July 20.

The jury found the accused not guilty of conspiring to sell or deal in heroin, by seven votes in favour and two against.

Upon that verdict, the Criminal Court ordered Duru’s release from custody, unless his continued detention is justified for some other reason.

The court also ordered that a copy of Nwadike’s testimonies and police statement be sent to the Police Commissioner for the witness to be investigated for perjury.

Lawyer Joseph Mifsud was defence counsel.

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