The Malta Independent 26 November 2022, Saturday
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Father and son charged over discovery of crack cocaine lab, cash and drugs

Tuesday, 4 October 2022, 14:27 Last update: about 3 months ago

An elderly man and his son, who were on bail, were remanded in custody on aggravated drug possession, money laundering and bail breach charges.

Mario Brignone, 68, of Bormla and his son, Josef Zammit, 30, from Marsaskala both pleaded not guilty to the charges when they were arraigned before Magistrate Josette Demicoli this afternoon. They did not reply when asked about their employment.

The charges are connected to the discovery of a crack cocaine lab and various hard drugs in a property under their control.

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Inspector Mark Mercieca told the court how Zammit was arrested yesterday while signing his bail book at Zabbar. A large amount of cash was found on his person. A subsequent search of Zammit’s vehicle returned several sachets of suspected cocaine and heroin hidden in the driver side door panel.

Police then carried out a search at his residence, discovering cannabis grass and plants. Meanwhile, a search of Brignone’s house turned up cash hidden inside domestic appliances. A key found under the doormat, matched an abandoned residence opposite, where more drugs and cash were found, together with equipment used to manufacture crack cocaine.

Defence lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri did not contest the validity of the arrest.

Debono requested bail, citing the Patrick Spiteri case which he said, dealt with denial of bail due to a prior bail decree. He described the older  accused as “fragile,” saying that he had been taken to hospital yesterday “for five hours.”

The prosecution objected to the bail request.  “The case began yesterday and indicates that both are involved in drug trafficking and money laundering,” Inspector Mercieca submitted. A number of people had come to buy drugs from the house even while the police were there arresting him, said the inspector.

The men were both on two sets of bail each and had shown no will to reform themselves, he said, adding that there are also several civilian witnesses yet to testify. “We will provide any medical assistance he needs,” concluded the inspector.

Debono insisted on the health aspect, however. “He wasn’t carrying bricks around, he was dealing with small sachets,” the lawyer said, prompting the inspector to quip that after being arrested everyone seems to suddenly develop various chronic illnesses. 

The court ruled that the men’s conduct on bail showed they were not trustworthy and there was a risk of them tampering with the evidence or approaching civilian witnesses.

Debono pressed on: “Let’s be honest, are the prosecution’s witnesses - owners of a car and a residence - even if they are relevant, are they of such importance that bail is not to be granted?”

The inspector retorted that bail could also be denied as the investigation was still ongoing.

The court rejected the bail request in view of the risk of the men tampering with evidence and because the men did not satisfy the legal requirements for bail.

A freezing order was also imposed over the men’s assets. The court ordered the prison director to ensure that any medical assistance required was provided.

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