The Malta Independent 16 December 2017, Saturday

Woman acquitted of counterfeit cigarette charges

Tuesday, 14 November 2017, 16:03 Last update: about 1 month ago

A 37-year-old woman has been acquitted from charges regarding the circulation of counterfeit cigarettes, which were in a Sliema supermarket vending machine.

The court felt that there was insufficient proof against the 37-year-old, Rita Spiteri, who lived in St Julian's. She faced a number of charges revolving around 111,600 Rothmans Blue cigarettes, where excise duty had not been paid, in addition to the falsification of related documents.

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Investigators had conducted a search at the Sliema supermarket. Confronted by the police, an employee admitted to keeping some counterfeit cigarettes at his mother's apartment, which was in Gzira. A supermarket director later admitted to acquiring suspect merchandise from Spiteri.

Authorities found some packets of counterfeit Rothmans Blue  cigarettes in her home during a search.

The court heard how the woman collaborated with the authorities and that she said she obtained the cigarettes a few years earlier from a colleague who worked in a factory in Marsa, where she was employed. The court heard that she told the Sliema store director to pay 90c for them, which was below the LM1.15 price at the time.

Her former colleague told the police that she had received the cigarettes from a relative who had bought them from a man of Arab origins, the court heard.

Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera said that the statement made by Spiteri to the police was during her interrogation was not admissible, since she was not given the opportunity to speak to a lawyer before admitting.

The court, given the admissible evidence, said the prosecution did not prove a link between the counterfeit merchandise in Spiteri's possession, and the cigarettes she had allegedly bought from her former colleague seven years before.

The court also noted that the supermarket director who had allegedly been involved in the illegal trade did not deliver any testimony against the accused. As such, the court concluded that the offences were not sufficiently proven.


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