Duo Charged In Peruvian Drug Trafficking Case

peru

Two women arrested on suspicion of trying to smuggle cocaine worth £1.5m out of Peru have been formally charged, prosecutors have said.

Tyrone native Michaella McCollum Connolly and Scottish national Melissa Reid, both 20, were moved to a detention centre in Lima after appearing before the District Prosecutor on Tuesday.

The women face a maximum prison sentence of 15 years if convicted while a sentence of 3 years detention may also be imposed if they are refused bail.

McCollum Connolly and Reid were detained in Lima last week, accused of trying to smuggle millions of dollars worth of cocaine into Europe.

The two women have protested their innocence, saying they were forced to carry items in their luggage at gunpoint , having been kidnapped by a gang of Columbian mobsters.

Peruvian officials say the women were en route to Madrid and Majorca on August 6 when Lima airport officials discovered almost 12kgs (26lbs) of cocaine hidden inside food packages in their luggage.

The cocaine was said to have a street value of some $2m (£1.3m).

They will eventually be taken to the high security women’s prison Ancon 2, situated in a desert north of Lima.

Commenting on the women’s current condition in custody, Peter Madden, the lawyer for Dungannon native McCollum Connolly said: “They’re both in a holding cell, there are two other women there, but they haven’t gotten anything to eat today.

“They haven’t been offered any food and to me that is unacceptable. The conditions inside the holding cells are pretty grim.

“They are expected to lie almost on the floor, there is a sort of sponge-type bed which is just not acceptable, there are no blankets, it’s not clean, and the most important thing is that they haven’t actually been offered any food today, and it didn’t look as if they were going to be.”

Madden also denied media reports that his client had a history of involvement with drugs.

“Michaella McCollum did not owe any money to any drugs dealer, she was not and is not involved in the drugs trade, she has no criminal record, she has never been in trouble with the police in her life,” he said.

“She was not seen on video carrying drugs, as was alleged in one newspaper, she was carrying a handbag, it was her handbag, it was pretty obvious it wasn’t drugs, but that was the report.

“She was not out shopping in Lima and spending a lot of money, that didn’t happen.”

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