A Turkish man is standing trial over the largest ever haul of heroin in Malta – 11.5 kilogrammes, whose value is estimated to have been about €524,000.
Ismail Tirso, 49, who worked as a taxi driver and labourer in the construction industry in Turkey, is pleading not guilty to conspiring to deal in heroin, as well as importing and being in possession of the drug three-and-a-half years ago.
Police inspector Denis Theuma was the first to take the witness stand yesterday, saying the police had received a tip-off that a substantial amount of drugs was going to be imported into Malta. The police were told that the drugs had to be brought in by someone arriving on a flight from Istanbul, Turkey, via Bulgarian capital Sofia.
The police had been monitoring flights and on the day the defendant was arrested – 8 October 2007 – the police inspector said he went to the airport, along with other police officers from the Drug Squad.
Together with customs officers, we were checking and scanning the luggage of people that had just landed.
The police were under the impression they had checked the luggage of all the people who arrived on the flight Istanbul-Sofia-Malta, and Inspector Theuma said they were about to leave and return to the police headquarters.
The defendant appeared out of nowhere. We found it strange that he was all alone; he seemed calm, and was carrying a large, dark blue suitcase. One of the customs officers scanned it. There were only a few clothes inside, considering the size of the suitcase. We took out the clothes and scanned it again; it was still quite heavy. The x-ray scan showed a dark area in part of the suitcase.
He went on to explain that as they inspected the luggage more carefully, they realised that it had a false compartment; they managed to open it slightly, and noticed there were two large, brown envelopes.
When the police inspector asked him about the packages in the luggage, he said he knew nothing about them, because someone else had given him the luggage back in Turkey.
Inspector Theuma said: The defendant told me he had come to Malta on holiday for four to five days. He said he had come to Malta to find a partner. He had to go to San Pawl Hotel in Bugibba and make a call to Turkey. Seeing that he seemed to want to cooperate with the police, we decided to carry out a controlled delivery of the drugs.
He explained that customs officers had provided another luggage (which was sprayed dark blue, since its original colour was pink) that the police could use for the controlled delivery.
We took the defendant to San Pawl Hotel, he made a call, and soon after the person who was meant to pick up the luggage containing the drugs arrived. Both that person and others involved in the case were arrested and charged.
Police inspector Pierre Grech also testified yesterday, saying that in his statement, the defendant said he had been given the luggage by a certain Jamal, whom he only got to know two weeks before he was arrested.
I swear I didn’t know there was something illegal in the luggage… I was tricked, Mr Tirso told the police in his statement, adding that Jamal had told him he promised a family in Malta that he would send them a luggage as a present. Mr Tirso was meant to give them the luggage and he was promised they would help him find a partner and a job in Malta.
The case continues.
The court is being presided over by Mr Justice Michael Mallia. Lawyer Nadine Sant, from the Attorney General’s office is prosecuting and lawyer Malcolm Mifsud is appearing for the accused.
23 June 2010