Two women charged with importing drugs in a mailed package containing the banned stimulant khat released on bail, two weeks after being arraigned

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Two Somali women charged with importing drugs in a mailed package containing the banned stimulant khat have been released on bail, two weeks after being arraigned.

Ayan Awil Mohamed, 26, and Hodon Aden Farah, 42, both from Somalia had been in custody since March 9 when they had been arraigned in court, charged with importing, selling and possession of khat.

During their arraignment, drugs squad Inspector Mark Anthony Mercieca had told the court how the women had been arrested after police were alerted to the suspicious package by customs.

The mail item had been addressed to a property in Pieta and was found to contain a green grass-like substance, which they suspected to be a prohibited drug. The substance was analysed and found to be khat, a stimulant which is popular in Somalia.

When their case continued before magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras on Monday, Inspector Mercieca testified about the investigation, giving more details about the investigation which led to the arrests. He told the court that on February 23 he had been contacted by customs about a package containing 9kg of a green substance, suspected to be drugs.

Police had noted that the package had been sent from France to a Guardamangia address, addressed to Awil Mohammed Ayan. The duty magistrate had been informed and launched an inquiry. Tests conducted as a part of the inquiry confirmed the substance to be khat, a controlled substance in Malta.

The police searched for Ayan in their database and found her to reside at the same address inscribed on the package. A search and arrest warrant was issued.

“I called up the number on the package and identified myself as a police officer to the person who took the call. She replied that she was ‘coming for the package now’,” he said.

She was arrested upon her arrival and her vehicle was searched. Drugs were found in the vehicle, and the persons inside it were taken in for questioning by the police.

The Inspector had found photos of similar packages on the Ayan’s mobile phone as well as tracking numbers and screenshotted updates for the parcel in question.

Ayan told police that the mobile phone belonged to Hodon, said the inspector.

Although the package was labelled as containing black tea, during her interrogation, Ayan had admitted to knowing it was khat and said that it wasn’t the first time that she had imported it. The French person she had bought it from had recently been arrested, she explained.

The pair were arraigned under arrest and had been remanded in custody since then, said the inspector.

He added that Ayan’s statement had led the police to Hodon and to other people as well as implicating persons abroad.

Lawyer Franco Debono requested bail for the women, arguing that there were no civilian witnesses yet to testify and that the evidence had already been exhibited.

The court released both accused on bail, each of them against a deposit of €4,000 and a personal guarantee of €10,000. They were also ordered to observe a curfew and sign a bail book on a daily basis.

The case continues.

Lawyers Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri and Francesca Zarb are defence counsel.

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