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Three men denied bail over 30kg cannabis find

One of the suspects is also implicated in an alleged speedboat drug trafficking ring

Three suspected drug traffickers, arrested on Thursday in a raid on a Ħamrun garage, were on Friday remanded in custody after pleading not guilty to charges against them.

The find yielded 32kg of cannabis and some €42,000 in cash. 

Italian national Salvatore Coco, 48, was charged with trafficking cannabis, the importation and possession of the drug which was clearly not intended for his personal use, as well as with money laundering activities.

The prosecution explained in court that police had acted upon a tip-off that the Italian man was about to import a considerable supply of drugs.

In a joint operation between different units, police converged upon the complex of garages in St Vincent Street where they discovered a vehicle bearing Italian number plates. It was inside this vehicle, belonging to the Italian suspect, that police found the drugs and cash.

READ: Massive cannabis stash and €42,000 in cash

The prosecution strongly objected to the request for bail on behalf of the Italian man, pointing out that the charges were of a very grave nature and investigations were still at an early stage. Moreove, the arrested man had no firm ties on the island.

Duty magistrate Josette Demicoli, upholding the arguments of the prosecution, turned down the request for bail and issued a freezing order upon the man’s assets.

His two Maltese alleged accomplices Michael Aquilina, 45, of Mosta and Gordon Schembri, 31, of Floriana, were then arraigned.

READ: Drug ring used speedboats to ferry cannabis, court told

They also pleaded not guilty of conspiring to traffic cannabis, importing the drug, acting as accomplices and carrying out money laundering activities.

Mr Aquilina was also charged with breaching earlier bail conditions and Mr Schembri with being a relapser.

Both men requested bail which was denied by the court. A freezing order was also issued upon their assets.

Michael Aquilina had been arrested on September 7 in the company of 22-year old Italian national Greta Grassi, in Għadira after a police surveillance operation had broken up a drug trafficking racket which used speedboats to ferry drugs between Malta and Sicily.

Proceedings against all three are to continue next week.

Inspector Jonathan Cassar prosecuted. Lawyer Benjamin Valenzia was legal aid counsel to Mr Coco. Lawyer Kathleen Calleja Grima was counsel to Mr Aquilina and Mr Schembri.

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