The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

Polonium plot: Accused’s locked mobile phone being analysed by American expert

Wednesday, 20 May 2020, 15:24 Last update: about 9 days ago

The compilation of evidence against 34-year-old Jomic Calleja Maatouk from Zebbug, charged under anti-terrorism laws with plotting to import poisons Ricin and Polonium as well as C4 explosive into Malta, continued in court today.

He was arrested as part of a police investigation, after the Maltese authorities were alerted by foreign security services that unknown persons were attempting to buy Polonium 210, Ricin and Fentanyl on the dark web.

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Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech heard police inspector Omar Zammit from the police’s counterterrorism unit testify, giving details about the investigation into Calleja Maatouk’s dealings.

The accused’s locked mobile phone is in the hands of an American expert who is analysing data extracted from the device. He will be testifying via videoconferencing in a future sitting.

The accused told his lawyer that he was willing to give up the mobile phone’s password, but was told by the prosecution that this was not needed at this stage as the mobile had already been unlocked.

A police sergeant from the Counterterrorism Unit exhibited a large cardboard box containing an empty guitar amplifier hiding a stick of fake explosive which had been swapped out by the police as part of a controlled delivery operation. The sergeant told the court that he had personally gone to Luke Airforce Base in Phoenix, Arizona to observe the swapping operation inside a bunker there. The explosive removed was tested and found to be viable C4, he said.

During his initial questioning, Calleja Maatouk had refused to give up his password. “I don’t even give my password to my mother,” he was quoted as saying as the defence tried to suggest that the man had helped the police in their investigations.

Superintendent George Cremona, prosecuting together with Zammit, confirmed that the accused had refused to give up the passwords when asked.

Defence lawyer Benjamin Valenzia made great emphasis on the argument that the accused was now cooperating. Magistrate Frendo Dimech said she had taken the submissions on board, but pointed out that “cooperation is from day one”.

The court heard arguments on bail, after a request to this effect was made by the defence.

Valenzia said it was not clear whether there were any civilian witnesses yet to testify. In reply, Inspector Zammit explained to the court that there was one witness left, the accused’s biological father, who was also vulnerable as he is unwell.

The court ordered that the man be allowed to testify by videoconferencing if needed. The bail request would be decreed from chambers, said the magistrate.

The case continues in June.    

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