A Maltese national who made headlines back in 2019 for his conviction in Sicily for the attempted transportation of 230 kilograms of marijuana from Sicily to Malta in a frozen food truck has been acquitted on appeal by a Sicilian court.
Close to four years after the court of first instance found Johann Falzon guilty of attempted drug trafficking, he has now been freed of the charges. But whoever was responsible for the attempt to smuggle the delivery to Malta, believed to have been worth a street value of close to €1.5 million, remains unknown.
As such, there is still a large question mark hanging over the case.
All indications point to a strange and unscheduled stop on his itinerary while en route to Malta, where he was asked by the transportation company he worked for to collect a load from a courier who had provided him with a fake delivery note for the shipment.
The 33-year-old Maltese national had been caught in Pozzallo as he was boarding the catamaran to Malta between 28 and 29 January 2019 when inspections by drug sniffer dogs deployed by the Guardia di Finanza and customs found the payload inside the truck he was driving for the unnamed Maltese transportation company for which he worked.
The marijuana was found divided into vacuum-packed parcels that, it later emerged, were loaded with a fake delivery note from a courier.
Falzon’s legal defence successfully argued in the appeal that he had been unaware of the illicit cargo. They reconstructed his journey, during which there were two crucial points at which the cannabis could have been loaded onto his truck.
One was a break at a petrol station where he said he had stopped to have a bite to eat. The other was an unexpected call from his company to collect a consignment from a courier – an unscheduled stop on his route.
Falzon’s defence contended that anyone could have loaded the packages onto the truck and they requested investigators to gather video footage he believed would exonerate him. But investigators had initially thought that the petrol station was inadequately covered by CCTV and unable to have recorded any suspicious loading operations.
There had been an unnecessary delay in retrieving that footage, which, by that time, had been deleted, the court of appeal heard.
According to Falzon’s defence, footage of vehicular traffic in the vicinity of Falzon’s truck could still have still rendered valuable clues, but investigators had moved too late to retrieve it.
Falzon has now been acquitted of the crime under a second appeals process, with the attorney general even having requested his acquittal in the first appeal.
He was acquitted based on investigators’ inadequate evaluation of Falzon’s exact reconstruction of his movements on that day, the delay in retrieving the CCTV footage that could have exonerated him, the suspected addition of the unscheduled load from a courier and his lack of an interpreter in the original criminal case.