WATCH: Two men acquitted of stealing €2.6 million during hold-up 16 years ago

49-year old Joseph Grech of Mosta and 35 year-old George Briffa of Valletta were not found guilty that 16 years ago they robbed Lm884,200 (€2,060,186) during a hold-up in Canon Road, Santa Venera.

The case occurred in October 2000 at around 12.35 pm when two armed men blocked a Group 4 van in Canon Road, which had just left the HSBC bank, and stole the money.

hold-up-group-4_frame_9052The thieves had escaped with the money by a stolen van which was later on found burnt in the limits of Żebbuġ.

The stolen money was found a month after the hold-up during a search by the police in a building in St George’s Street, Birżebbuġa. The majority of the money were found under a mattress, together with a balaclava and a mobile phone.

Criminal proceedings are also underway on the case against Emanuel Formosa, the driver of the Group 4 van, Mario Cutajar – owner of the property were the money were found and Alfredo Degiorgio whose fingerprints were found on a particular object.

Grech and Briffa were arraigned in Court after their DNA was found on the two balaclava found with the money in Birżebbuġa.

In Court, Salvu Galea who was in the van as a custodian with Formosa recounted that two hooded men approached them. After failing to sound the alarm – ‘attack attack attack’ through the radio, one of the men pointed a shotgun toward him and the other placed what looked like a bomb on the windscreen on the driver’s side. He said that while he remained seated, Formosa stood up and gave them everything from the back of the van.

The Court with particular questions on the Magistrate’s inquiry

In its sentence the Court, presided by Magistrate Neville Camilleri, raised questions on what it described as “very strange reason” on how a number of reports in the magistrate’s inquiry did not result as an integral part of the True Copy of the ‘Proces-Verbal’.

hold-up-group-4_frame_9924It said that it couldn’t make reference to what Formosa, the van’s driver, told Dr Veronica Aquilina – an expert in the inquiry – when he told her that he recognised the accused Grech as one of the persons who were planning the hold-up.

The Magistrate added that Dr Aquilina was appointed as a legal expert but it did not emerge that she was given the faculty to hear witnesses on oath and therefore the testimony was inadmissible.

The prosecution told the court that tests made by Matthew James Greenhalgh, a DNA expert, showed that the DNA profile of the two accused was elevated on the two balaclava and stressed that the involvement of the accused in the hold-up was a clear one. However, the Court said that it has reservations on a number of factors related to the report, including that the appointment of Greenhalgh is not in the Proces-Verbal and no reference is made to the balaclava and the comparative exam for the DNA testing. Therefore it declared Greenhalgh’s report as inadmissible.

The Magistrate said that proof in the acts are not enough to find the accused guilty and as a state of fact, in the process act there is no proof that shows that the accused were present on the hold-up crime scene or were involved in it. The court therefore acquitted Grech and Grima from all charges against them.