The Malta Independent 20 January 2022, Thursday

Woman who changed testimony in infamous Gozo drugs case to be investigated for perjury

Wednesday, 27 September 2017, 16:31 Last update: about 5 years ago

A woman who had changed her testimony in a drug trafficking case, leading to an investigation into ministerial interference, will be investigated for perjury.

A second person who was involved in the case has been jailed for 18 months and fined €1,000.

The former, Kevin Vella, from Victoria, Gozo, was arrested during the early hours of 16 July 2013, near Mgarr ix-Xini. Magistrate Joseph Mifsud heard that a party was being organized in the area on the day in question. Medical personnel had been alerted to an unconscious woman, Zael Vella, being carried up a hill by two men, one of whom was Kevin Vella. 

Police officers grew suspicious when Vella refused assistance and watched from a distance. The third person fled but Zael and Kevin Vella, who were dating at the time, were found in a car belonging to the woman’s father.

Officers saw the man trying to extract a plastic bag from his trouser pocket while a search inside the car yielded none packets containing white substance. Forensics later confirmed that there were 4 grammes of cocaine, with a purity of 28%.

Kevin Vella refused to be assisted by a lawyer and told officers he had no knowledge of the packets. He said he had not locked the car and the windows were left open.

Zael Vella was very cooperative and initially told the officers that the sachets belonged to her partner and that he had sold drug in the past. She said there had been times when he gave her ecstasy and cannabis. The woman also provided the police with some other names.

But when testifying later in court, the woman Vella partly withdrew the statement released earlier under interrogation, saying that she had been hungover at the time. She said that she never saw Kevin Vella dealing drugs and was just assuming so because he was friends with a drug dealer.

The woman had been arraigned but was conditionally discharged after pleading guilty.

Kevin Vella was summarily sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of €1,000

He was also ordered to pay fees of €364.67 for court experts.

Magistrate Mifsud called on the Police Commissioner to launch an investigation into Zael Vella’s change in statements, noting that, if found guilty, she could be sentenced to a maximum of two years in prison.

He also gave instructions for the criminal investigation of the individuals mentioned by the girl in her initial statement and to immediately prosecute them if necessary.
Prosecution was represented by Inspector Bernard Charles Spiteri, while the defence counsel was Lawyer Joseph Giglio.

The change in statement had led to the infamous ‘Gozo drugs case’ before the last general election, when Malta Today claimed that the statement was changed after a meeting was held between two ministers and relatives of the woman. A government appointed inquiry, which was rejected by the PN, had found no proof of interference by the ministers, Anton Refalo and Manuel Mallia. 

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