The Malta Independent 24 June 2018, Sunday

Court acquits man who tried to take blame instead of brother

Thursday, 8 March 2018, 11:25 Last update: about 5 months ago

A man accused of drug possession was acquitted by the Magistrates’ Court after attempting to take the blame instead of his older brother.

Russell Buhagiar, 36, was accused of possession of cocaine with the circumstances suggesting that it was not exclusively for his personal use, as well as possession of cannabis.

Inspector Elton Taliana recounted that a bag of powdered cocaine was found in the cupboards of the bathroom at the accused’s residence.

The court, presided over by magistrate Neville Camilleri, heard that the powder found at the residence he shared with his brother amounted to 29.35g, with the amount of cocaine making up around 40% – with a total street value of up to 3,023.

Three other drug-filled sachets were found hidden inside a vase in the sitting room.

In his bedroom, the inspector said that a pipe, a bottle of sodium carbonate, a keychain with stains and ash, a notebook, 12 gold items with price tags, and stacks of cash were also found.

However, examinations failed to find any drugs on the accused’s person. “So far, nothing has been found,” inspector Taliana said, explaining that the accused was brought to court due to his own admission that the substances found at this residence were in fact his. “Since he was the one who admitted, he was the one to be charged.”

It was further established that no illicit substances were found in the accused’s shop, nor was the initial haul found in his room, but in the bathroom and the entrance of his residence. The investigation proper, Taliana said, concerns the accused’s brother – André Francois Buhagiar.

Furthermore, the police never received prior drug-related reports on the accused.

During the initial raids, in fact, the mandate was against André Francois Buhagiar, and although Russell Buhagiar was present, he was not arrested. It was only after the first raid that the latter admitted that the substances were his, which is when he was arrested.

When asked to testify, the accused said that he fabricated the story in order to protect his older brother.

He said that it was only when the police arrived home that he found out that the substances were in the bathroom.

The accused’s brother had also testified that the illegal substance indeed belonged to him, telling the court that his younger brother was not involved.

On the basis of all such evidence, the court cleared the accused of all charges.

Inspectors Elton Taliana and Robert Vella prosecuted.

Lawyers Franco Debono, Michael Sciriha, and Amadeus Cachia appeared as defence counsel.

 

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