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MaltaToday 10 May 2023 MIDWEEK

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4 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 10 MAY 2023 4 NEWS Cigarette smugglers jailed, fined €6.6 million each MATTHEW AGIUS FOUR Malta Freeport work- ers have been sentenced to jail and slapped with a major €6.6 million fine, each, for tax fraud over a cigarette smuggling op- eration. The men were accused of de- frauding the government out of over €2 million in duty and tax- es as a result of the smuggling operation that was smashed by law enforcement officers in 2015. Magistrate Donatel- la Frendo Dimech sentenced Christopher Calleja, a 69-year- old security officer from Vallet- ta to a four-year jail term, while haulier Malcolm Zammit, 44, from Qormi, was sentenced to three years in jail. In separate proceedings, cus- toms officer Sebastian Zammit, 73, from Safi and Malta Free- port employee Roderick Borg from Qormi, were jailed for three years and two years re- spectively. They were also fined €6.6 million each. In addition to the hefty fines, the men were ordered to pay €1,123 in court costs and the trailer was confiscated. The case was about a stolen container filled with over 10 million cigarettes, which was emptied and then returned to its place at the freeport, still bearing the Customs Depart- ment security seals. An investigation was launched after the container was taken out of the Freeport on 24 July, 2015, only to be returned to its original location 90 minutes lat- er. The men were charged with stealing the container from the Freeport. The container was holding 1,050 cases inside, each carrying 10,000 cigarettes. The stolen merchandise was worth €304,500. The accused are said to have deprived the government of €1.66 million in excise duty, €175,000 in importation duty, and €386,000 in Value Added Tax, totalling €2.23 million Inspectors Rennie Stivala and Carlos Cordina prosecuted. Accused had been convicted of running over motorcyclist and then assaulting him CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Vella Petroni was remanded in custody after being charged with negligently causing the deaths of Faizan Muhammed and Ali Ab- bas, while in an uninsured car, without a licence or insurance. He was also accused of having been driving in the wrong lane when the fatal collision oc- curred. During his arraignment, it emerged that he had been con- victed over "a similar offence." Although, in keeping with re- cent trends, the judgement in the criminal case against Vella Petroni is not available on the court's online repository, the same incident would appear to have also been the subject of a civil case in which he was or- dered to pay over €16,000 in compensation. The injured motorcyclist, Glenn Bartolo, had testified in the civ- il case, telling the court how he had been riding his broth- er Emanuel's motorcycle in slow moving traffic in St. Paul's Street, Naxxar on July 4 2003 when a car being driven by Vella Petroni had crossed into Barto- lo's lane, against the flow of traf- fic, apparently in a bid to enter a side street. Vella Petroni's vehicle had hit the motorcyclist from the right- hand side, knocking both bike and rider over. While still on the ground, writh- ing in pain from broken bones and a dislocated shoulder, Bar- tolo yelled at the driver, telling him not to move the motorcy- cle, he told the court. But the incident, as narrated in the judgement, did not end there. Vella Petroni and a friend of his, Noel Agius, had approached the fallen rider and started to kick him, while telling him to shut up and that he wasn't badly hurt. This account was corroborat- ed by the testimony of a police constable who was first on the scene, who testified to finding the motorcycle on its side and Bartolo a short distance away. He recalled seeing Bartolo, sit- ting on his haunches, while two men had been hitting him on the head and telling him to "come on, get up." The officer said he had pulled the men off the vic- tim and told them they ought to be ashamed of what they were doing. The motorcyclist had then been taken to hospital in an ambu- lance, spending the next five days recovering in the hospital after being operated on. The constable clarified that Agius had not been travelling in Vella Petroni's car, but had come out of a side street. On the witness stand, Bartolo had confirmed an observation that he had made to the police at the scene - that he had seen Vella Petroni holding a mobile phone in his hand just before the collision. He added that Vel- la Petroni and Agius had also turned the motorcycle around to face the opposite direction. Although the hotel where he had been employed as a chef had kept him on, it was only on a part-time basis, he said. A court-appointed medical expert had adjudged Bartolo as having suffered a 4% disability, noting that although he had made a good recovery, he would remain likely to suffer from early-onset arthritis as a result. Vella Petroni was ordered to pay Bartolo €9,178 by the First Hall of the Civil Court in 2009, with the amount being revised to €16,236.59 by the Court of Ap- peal in 2012. Vella Petroni's car hit the motorbike on which the two victims were riding

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