Three charged with cigarette smuggling after 870,000 cigarette haul

Three men have appeared in court, accused of smuggling cigarettes, in connection with yesterday's seizure by customs officials of 870,000 contraband cigarettes

The court was told that the men were apprehended in a van after taking delivery of the contraband cigarettes from a speedboat
The court was told that the men were apprehended in a van after taking delivery of the contraband cigarettes from a speedboat

Three men have appeared in court, accused of smuggling cigarettes, in connection with yesterday’s seizure by customs officials of 870,000 contraband cigarettes on a speedboat from Sicily.

James Azzopardi, 29 of Qormi, James Spiteri, 29 of Qormi and Redeemer Camilleri, 24 of Marsa, appeared in the dock before magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo this afternoon. The court was told that the men were apprehended in a van after taking delivery of the contraband cigarettes from the Italian-registered speedboat.

A representative of the Customs Department presented various documents relating to the items seized to the court, which are now in customs’ possession. The men are accused of attempting to cheat the taxman of some €190,000.

All three accused pleaded not guilty to the charges and requested bail.

Inspector Rennie Stivala, prosecuting, objected to bail, in particular with regards Azzopardi in particular, in view of the man’s criminal record. He had been previously been given bail for similar charges, said the inspector.

Lawyer Joe Giglio, for Spiteri, argued that the most important thing is that the ongoing police investigation is not a ground for refusing bail. The investigation in view of Spiteri had ended, he said.

Sciriha, for Azzopardi, said that the issue of previous bail conditions would only become an issue if guilt was found. “He is not yet found guilty of that crime,” pointed out the criminal lawyer, also telling the court that such cases “are normally arraigned by writ of summons.”

The court, however, denied bail and ordered that the men be remanded in custody.

Lawyer Michael Sciriha appeared for James Azzopardi, lawyer Joe Giglio for James Spiteri and lawyer Fransina Abela for Redeemer Camilleri.

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