independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Please let me go home, begs drug smuggler Michaella

Michaella McCollum Connolly, cuffed, arrives at court at Sarita Colonia prison in Callao December 17, 2013. McCollum Connolly, of Dungannon in Northern Ireland, and Melissa Reid (unseen), from near Glasgow in Scotland, charged in Peru with drug trafficking, are set to go on trial in Peru on Tuesday and could face up to 18 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said. The two women were arrested at Lima airport in August after 11 kg (24 lb) of cocaine worth 1.5 million pounds ($2.3 million) was found in their luggage, according to authorities.  REUTERS/Mariana Bazo (PERU - Tags: CRIME LAW DRUGS SOCIETY)
Michaella McCollum Connolly, cuffed, arrives at court at Sarita Colonia prison in Callao December 17, 2013. McCollum Connolly, of Dungannon in Northern Ireland, and Melissa Reid (unseen), from near Glasgow in Scotland, charged in Peru with drug trafficking, are set to go on trial in Peru on Tuesday and could face up to 18 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said. The two women were arrested at Lima airport in August after 11 kg (24 lb) of cocaine worth 1.5 million pounds ($2.3 million) was found in their luggage, according to authorities. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo (PERU - Tags: CRIME LAW DRUGS SOCIETY)

PERU drugs mule Michaella McCollum has asked to spend her almost seven-year jail sentence in the UK.

McCollum and her friend Melissa Reid, both 20, will spend Christmas in a Peruvian jail after being sentenced to six years and eight months for trying to smuggle €1.8m of cocaine out of the country.

However, the pair could yet be free in just over two years for good behaviour. After the sentence they both indicated their intentions to seek a transfer from Peru. The Lima sentencing court said last night that the women’s prison sentence would end on April 5, 2020.

Michaella's lawyer Meyer Fishman said he had yet to clarify if the women would qualify for early release as model prisoners because of conflicting Peruvian legislation.

He said: “In theory they should qualify for early parole. There are judges that say ‘yes' and there are judges that say ‘no.' But it's something that needs to be cleared up.” Yesterday's case was behind closed doors but a spokesperson revealed they had made a transfer request.

“Michaella and Melissa only spoke to say they agreed with the sentence and ask through a translator if they could serve out their sentences in the UK,” the spokesperson said.

However they have been warned by their lawyers the transfer process is fraught with bureaucratic hurdles.

The women learned their fate after striking a deal with prosecutors by pleading guilty to a drugs trafficking charge following more than four months behind bars as remand prisoners.

Last night they returned as convicts to a cell they have been sharing with nearly 40 other women at hellhole Lima prison Virgen de Fatima.

COMPENSATION

They also agreed to pay around €2,630 each as compensation.

The cash will have to be paid before they are transferred to a UK jail or allowed to return home after serving out their sentences in Peru.

Reid, from Len-zie, near Glasgow, confessed in a diary entry leaked at the weekend that she was prepared for the worst.

However chief prosecutor Gustavo Carvajal revealed last week he was now happy to do a deal after the women made new statements about their drug-running.

A Peru Prison Service spokesman said: “They will be returned to the same cell they have been held in as remand prisoners at Virgen de Fatima prison. At the moment there are no plans to transfer them.”

The sentence received by Reid and McCollum, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, was the minimum sentence under Peruvian law for drugs traffickers.

They were also required to avoid trial by pleading guilty and persuading prosecutors to accept their confessions. It represents a sixth off the minimum sentence of eight years.

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