A young man who strongly protested his innocence when found in possession of almost 8,000 psychotropic pills stuffed inside three protein shake tubs, has been acquitted by a court which deemed his version as credible and not contradicted.

Ayoub Ahmad Mohamed Ahmad, was 23 when the case happened five years ago, The Libyan national left his homeland in 2015 to study in Malta. He soon settled down and was granted refugee status, making new friends along the way.

One of those friends was a fellow national who offered him a job as a driver in the business of car importation from The Netherlands.

When in November 2016, Ayoub expressed the wish to visit his mother in Libya, his friend offered to help him acquire a ticket for travel, with the departure date being January 4, 2017.

After meeting his friend to reimburse him the costs of the ticket, his friend requested a favour. He asked Ayoub to deliver three protein shake tubs to his brother in Libya who was a workout fanatic.

On the eve of his departure, Ayoub went to his friend’s place in Bugibba to collect the items which were handed over to him, along with a sizeable suitcase for transporting the large tubs to Libya.

As he made his way along Triq il-Qroll at around 4pm on that January 3 afternoon, lugging the dark bulky suitcase, he was stopped by police who were acting on a tip off about a suspected drug deal.

Ayoub was escorted to a less crowded area close to the Sirens pitch and was subjected to a personal search which gave a negative result.

However, when the police opened the protein tubs, which at first glance appeared to be sealed, they came across a substantial number of blister packets containing pills.

Those 7,980 pills were subsequently certified by a chemical expert as being Clonazepam, a drug used to treat seizures and panic disorders.

The youth denied “in the most absolute manner” knowing what those tubs contained, telling police how, earlier on, he had unscrewed the lid of one of the containers and saw that the tubs were sealed.

He was charged with possessing the psychotropic drugs in circumstances indicating that they were not intended solely for personal use.

He was also charged with attempting to breach the Medical and Kindred Professions Ordinance as well as unlicensed wholesale dealing.

He pleaded not guilty, insisting all along that he was not aware of the contents of those tubs.

When delivering judgment, Magistrate Elaine Mercieca observed that while the material elements of the alleged offence were not contested, the formal element, namely the accused’s criminal intent, was strongly contested by the defence.

The accused’s lawyer, Arthur Azzopardi, argued that Ayoub never knew and never intended to carry those drugs and thus, the necessary criminal intent was missing.

The court sought to determine the existence or otherwise of this formal element of the alleged crime by analyzing the evidence put forward.

The accused did not resist arrest and that in itself was an indication that he had no idea of being in a state of illegality.

A court expert had found no fingerprints matching the accused’s on the tubs, although some of the marks matched those of his friend who had consigned the tubs.

Moreover, under interrogation the accused gave a very detailed statement, willingly supplying certain details even without being asked to do so and relaying his version without needing much prompting by the police.

His answers were credible and no evidence was produced to contradict his version.

The absence of his fingerprints on the tubs, though not certain proof of his innocence, when taken in the context of all other evidence, lent more credibility to the accused’s version, observed Magistrate Mercieca.

Nor had the accused invented the story about the third party who gave him the tubs, simply to try to shift the blame.

The fingerprint expert had subsequently confirmed that third party’s marks on the items and the man was also targeted by criminal investigations.

The accused’s version remained consistent all throughout his interrogation and even years later when testifying in court, recalling even the smallest details, the court observed.

Given that the prosecution had produced no evidence to contradict that version, the accused had managed to prove on a balance of probabilities that he did not possess the necessary criminal intent relative to the first two charges.

The third charge concerning the alleged unlicensed wholesale dealing was also “absolutely” not proved, concluded the court, thus acquitting the accused.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi was defence counsel.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us