Two Colombians involved in distributing €2.24 million worth of cocaine within the State have been jailed for seven years each.
The men’s lawyers asked Judge Martin Nolan not to impose the mandatory minimum ten year sentence because the men were acting under duress from other Colombians who they owed money to.
Michael O’Higgins SC compared the case to that of an English and a Northern Irish woman who were recently jailed in Colombia for drug trafficking and who also claimed they acted under duress.
Counsel for the prosecution Anne Marie Lawlor BL said she had specific instructions to tell the court that the men’s claims of coercion were not corroborated and were not mentioned during their garda interviews.
Judge Nolan sided with the defence and said he didn’t believe the two men would have come to Ireland to distribute the drugs except out of desperation.
He said he could depart from the minimum ten year term as he believed the men “were acting under some degree of pressure” and that there was hope for their rehabilitation. He jailed each for seven years backdated to when they went into custody on their arrest.
Pedro Ruiz (38) and David Sanchez (29), both of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of 32 kilograms of cocaine at a bed and breakfast on the Stillorgan Road in Donnybrook, Dublin on June 26, 2014.
Mr O’Higgins, defending Sanchez, said the two men and a friend decided to make extra money by buying a container of clothing from China and selling it on. They borrowed €20,000 from a loan shark but were “ripped off” by the seller of the clothing and unable to repay the money.
Counsel said all three men were badly beaten and the third friend later went missing and has not been seen since. He said Ruiz and Sanchez were told they now owed €35,000 and that distributing the drugs was the first step in repaying it.
Garda Mark Berrigan told prosecuting counsel Anne Marie Lawlor BL that gardaí arrived at the Donnybrook address last June and asked Sanchez if there was anything there.
He replied, “Yea, kilos”, and gardaí found 32 packages weighing a kilogram each in a suitcase. Weighing scales and four mobile phones containing instructions to the men were also found.
Gda Berrigan said they also had €15,900 in cash which the men claimed were for their expenses.
During interview the men said they arrived a week and a half ago and picked up the drugs. They told gardaí they moved accommodation several times and were due to hand over the cocaine to a third party in Dublin or Wicklow.
Gda Berrigan said their phones were analysed but the men were using Blackberry phone messages to communicate with Colombia which are very difficult to trace.
Counsel for Ruiz, Michael Lynn SC, adopted the same submissions as Sanchez regarding their reasons for becoming involved. He said his client was in constant fear for his family’s safety because of the case and phoned home daily to make sure they were ok.