Man facing 530kg drug trafficking charges awarded bail

Bail turned down for co-accused

A Maltese man currently facing drug trafficking charges has been granted bail following his arrest in October.

Rudolph Said, a 35-year old Fgura resident, had been arrested together with two Sicilians from Catania, Angelo Penna, 60, and Cristoforo Paratore, 42, all three suspected of participating in a drug trafficking and money laundering racket.

The illicit business had been uncovered after a surveillance operation in St Julian’s which led members of the Drug Squad to discover 530 kilogrammes of cannabis resin and 20 kilogrammes of cannabis buds, together with €200,000 in cash, concealed inside the two trucks and a Malta-registered car. The estimated value of the haul is believed to run into millions of euros.

Upon their arraignment, all three suspects had been remanded in custody, with defence lawyers forwarding a request for bail later in the course of the proceedings.

Franco Debono, one of the lawyers assisting Mr Said, had argued that once all the police witnesses had testified and since his client had strong family ties in Malta, the request for bail ought to be upheld, stressing the need to balance the interests of justice against the rights of the arrested person.

Roberto Montalto, also defence counsel to the Maltese man, also insisted that, on the basis of the testimony presented so far, it appeared that the bagful of drugs had been placed inside the car behind the passenger seat by someone else before Mr Said had even approached the vehicle.

The court, presided over by Magistrate Neville Camilleri, issued a decree from chambers granting Mr Said bail against a deposit of €7,000 and a personal guarantee of €20,000, ordering him further to sign the bail book three times a week.

A similar request for bail on behalf of the two Italian men was, however, rejected.

Inspector Kevin Pulis is prosecuting. Lawyers Franco Debono, Roberto Montalto and Mario Mifsud are defence counsel to Mr Said.