A court has cleared a 70-year old pensioner of charges of conspiracy in drug-trafficking 19 years ago after finding no proof to back the prosecution’s case.

Angelo Zahra was arrested in July 2001 while meeting another man at a Golden Bay restaurant.

The two had been targeted in a police surveillance operation linked to intelligence about an alleged plot involving seven players who were supposedly planning to smuggle 3 kilos of cocaine to Malta from Sicily.

A speed boat trip to Sicily and back was allegedly the means whereby the drug and cash were to be exchanged.

A personal search of Zahra had yielded two keys, one of which matched a Seat Terra van parked opposite the restaurant.

Bag in man's van contained €72,772

Inside that van was a plastic bag containing some Lm31,640 (€72,772) in cash and a bank cheque for Lm307.18 (€706 approx).

A third suspect was also arrested after being intercepted by a police car while speeding away from the Ghajn Tuffieha area, heading towards Mgarr.

Yet, in the course of proceedings against Zahra, other alleged co-conspirators testified, saying that they had never met the accused prior to the court case, nor had any idea of his alleged role in financing the plot.

Moreover, two of the men testified that in reality the alleged ‘conspiracy’ had been nothing but a fake plot to defraud the intended ‘buyer,’ by making off with his money without ever meaning to import and hand over the drug.

The buyer had allegedly told them that he would collect sufficient money to cover the promised consignment, without ever disclosing the source or sources of funds.

Magistrate Neville Camilleri who was assigned the case in 2015, observed that, in line with constant case-law, the accused’s statement was not admissible in evidence since he had not been afforded legal assistance at the time.

Likewise, the statements of two of the alleged ‘co-conspirators’ were to be discarded since they had never testified in court nor faced cross-examination.

Another of the alleged co-conspirators had passed away in 2012.

When all was considered, the prosecution had failed to prove the conspiracy, the court observed, pointing out that call intercepts lacked both date and time as well as the relative phone numbers.

The prosecution’s case was based on ‘various hypotheses’ and speculations which fell short of the ‘concrete evidence’ needed to prove the case beyond all reasonable doubt, concluded the Court thus acquitting the accused.

Lawyer Joe Giglio was defence counsel.

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