A man who claimed to have been lured into selling his passport to a fellow migrant, and who was later caught by airport officials, was jailed for three years on Monday. 

Mohamad Hamed Mohamad, a 40-year old Eritrean construction worker with a Maltese identity card, was arraigned, barely 24 hours after a fellow migrant admitted in court to attempting to travel out of the country by using someone else’s passport. 

That passenger, a Sudanese migrant from Ħal Far Tent Village, had been flagged to police during intra-Schengen checks at Malta International Airport, while on the way to board a flight to Catania on Saturday. 

The man later told police he had purchased the document from a third party and was willing to testify in that regard. 

Mohamad, living at St Paul’s Bay, was arraigned and handed the jail term upon admitting to the charges. 

The passport owner was subsequently arrested at the Qawra police station where he turned up to report the loss of his personal document just when immigration police called to alert their colleagues. 

Under questioning, Mohamad confessed he had been lured by a third party, acting as go-between, to sell his passport to the other migrant who was to mail it back once he landed safely at Catania. 

But that plan was thwarted when the purchaser was stopped before embarkation.

On Monday, Mohamad pleaded guilty to assisting in the illegal traffic as well as making a false police report. 

Prosecuting inspector Karl Roberts cited three judgments wherein the Magistrates’ Courts, faced with similar charges, had meted out an effective three-year jail term. 

Citing the Palermo Convention and legal literature on the crime of human trafficking, defence lawyer Ramon Bonett Sladden argued that the intention of exploitation was missing in this case. 

The court, presided over by magistrate Noel Bartolo, granting the accused time to reconsider his guilty plea, condemned him to a three-year effective jail term, after taking note of his early admission, his criminal record sheet and his full cooperation with the police. 

Meanwhile, the legal aid lawyer reserved the right to file an appeal. 

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