Thursday 19 September 2019

Man who accepted €1.4K parcel of cocaine falsely addressed to South African embassy has jail term cut

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

A Nigerian man who accepted a parcel of cocaine worth €1.4m at a house in Co Kildare, that was falsely addressed to the South African embassy, has had his jail term cut on appeal.

Ibrahim Lawel (36), with an address at Marina Court, Athy Co.Kildare, pleaded guilty at Naas Circuit Criminal Court to possession of cocaine for sale or supply in the county on May 25, 2011.

He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with the final three suspended by Judge Michael O'Shea on March 14, 2016.

Lawel successfully appealed his sentence today/yesterday(MONDAY) with the Court of Appeal holding that the discount afforded by the Circuit Court judge for mitigating factors was inadequate. Lawel was accordingly resentenced to six years imprisonment with the final 18 months suspended.

Giving judgment in the three-judge Court of Appeal, Mr Justice John Hedigan said Lawel had been discharged from the offence in July 2012 but the Court of Criminal Appeal subsequently reversed that decision and the charge was reinstated.

The Court of Criminal Appeal held that, although statutory provisions were used illegally by various authorities, the package was not addressed to Lawel and no constitutional right could therefor apply.

Mr Justice Hedigan said the package was addressed to a fictional person, namely “Tony Tuto, Honorary Consul of the Republic of South Africa, of ** Marina Court, Athy, Co Kildare”.

It consisted of a green bag marked “Diplomatic Mail” and was purported to have been sent by the South African Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela.

It had been intercepted at Dublin Airport and was found to contain €1.4 million worth of cocaine.

In a controlled delivery, Lawel accepted the package and signed for it.

Shortly after the delivery, Lawel was seen leaving the premises in his car. Another man came to the premises and immediately left with the package.

Lawel was given €20 as a contribution towards the cost of Diesel to get him back to his job leafleting from Athy to Swords.

Upon his arrest, Lawel said he didn't know the parcel contained drugs and that he signed for it as a favour for a friend. He entered his guilty plea on the basis of recklessness.

Originally from Nigeria, he came to Ireland in 2007 and applied for refugee statues which was granted in 2015. He got married in 2014 and had no previous convictions .

Mr Justice Hedigan said the prosecuting garda accepted that Lawel did not know the package contained drugs albeit he was aware it was of a suspicious nature.

The garda agreed Lawel was under the influence of the man who asked him to take the delivery and there was an “imbalance of power” in the relationship.

The garda also agreed that Lawel had no role in setting up the operation, would have had no role in distribution, no ownership of the drugs and was to receive no share in the profits thereof.

He had never come to garda attention before the incident and was unlikely to ever do so again, the garda accepted.

Mr Justice Hedigan said it was, in the Court of Appeal's view, “quite exceptional that the prosecuting garda accepted” that Lawel “didn't know he was handling drugs when receiving the delivery”.

He said the discount afforded for mitigating circumstances was inadequate in all the circumstances.

Mr Justice Hedigan, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court would quash the original sentence and impose a new sentence of six years imprisonment with the final 18 months suspended.

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