A police discovery of contraband cigarettes worth hundreds of thousands of euros that was kept under wraps in 2013 is linked to Robert and Adrian Agius, the infamous Tal-Maksar brothers currently facing murder and drug trafficking charges.
On 14th April 2013, police discovered and impounded a van with foreign plates in Qala, which was carrying contraband cigarettes with an estimated value of hundreds of thousands of euros. The van and its contents were transferred to police headquarters for further investigation, but no official press release was issued.
Less than two months later, on 10th June, MP Jason Azzopardi submitted a parliamentary question asking about the incident, inquiring whether any investigation had started and whether any charges will be issued.
The reply came six months later, on 17th December 2013. Then-Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia said that he would not divulge any details on the case because investigations were ongoing. The case seemingly went cold soon after.
Sources now claim that the main suspects in the case were Robert and Adrian Agius, who have been charged in connection with the murders of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and lawyer Carmel Chircop, along with drug trafficking.
Robert Agius has managed to escape smuggling charges before. He was among five people charged with conspiring to smuggle thousands of contraband cigarettes into Malta, evading thousands of euros in import taxes in 2013.
After being tipped off by an informant, police intercepted a vessel making its way into Malta sometime in July 2013. Officers found 1,030,800 cigarettes, Business Royals and Tradition brands inside the boxes, valued at €29,870 with an Import Duty of €17,205 and liable to an Excise Duty of €145,487 and €34,661 in VAT.
An Indonesian sailor had linked him to the crime, but Agius was acquitted due to insufficient evidence.
Agius was also cleared of drug conspiracy in June 2020. In a case that dates back to 2012, police had arrested Agius after catching a woman arriving in Malta from Cairo with two plastic blocks filled with heroin. She told police she had agreed to smuggle the drugs into Malta for Agius.
After a controlled delivery, police arrested Agius. His brother, Adrian, was also in the car but was not charged. The case dragged on for years, with the woman refusing to testify while criminal proceedings against her were underway. He was eventually acquitted in July 2020 due to a lack of evidence.
Rene Darmanin, one of the lawyers for the Agius brothers told Lovin Malta that Robert was acquitted on any charges linked to cigarette smuggling and that the issue was not appealed by the AG; while Adrian was never investigated over such issues.
The Maksar brothers are believed to be some of Malta’s top criminals. Previous reports revealed that the Agius’ criminal web extends to a series of violent murders between gang members opening up a vacuum for the Agius brothers to become the major players in the smuggling world with ties to Italian, Libyan, Romanian and Albanian organised crime groups.
Ever since their arrest, questions have been raised as to how the men were able to evade capture for so long. Lovin Malta has recently revealed that investigations are underway to confirm suspicions as to whether the men had moles inside the Police Force and the Malta Security Service.
Sources have explained that the Maksar brothers were able to infiltrate the force well before Angelo Gafa was appointed police commissioner in 2020. Since taking over, Gafa’s reforms have seen major arrests, including that of the Maksar brothers.
However, his predecessors still cast a dark shadow over the work currently being done. Former Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar is under official investigation for leaking information on the Daphne Caruana Galizia investigation to a confidante of state witness Melvin Theuma.
Meanwhile, Cutajar’s deputy, Silvio Valletta, is also under investigation after being name-dropped as a vital leak of information in the Daphne Caruana Galizia investigation by both Theuma and confessed killer Vince Muscat.
There are also concerns surrounding the previous Economic Crimes Unit, which was lead by still-Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla. Abdilla, and several other officers in his department, were swiftly moved out at the start of Gafa’s tenure following years of inaction on major financial crime.
Lovin Malta has reached out to the Police.
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