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Wednesday 22 January 2020

Michaella's meeting with cocaine kingpin caught on CCTV

McCollum is shielded from photographers as she sits in a taxi Photo: Mark Condren
McCollum is shielded from photographers as she sits in a taxi Photo: Mark Condren
Michaella McCollum during the RTÉ interview

Adam Cullen

Michaella McCollum inadvertently identified one of Peru's top drug dealers - nicknamed "Uncle Charlie" - to the authorities in the South American country.

A top state official has said the former photography student had no choice but to admit that she had visited the gangster's apartment before she was caught smuggling drugs.

The Co Tyrone woman was spotted on CCTV calling to the notorious smuggler's flat in the affluent Miraflores district of Lima with her accomplice Melissa Reid.

"They had no choice, they were caught red-handed, on CCTV," said the source. "She could be in danger now. It is unlikely, but it is a possibility."

The trafficker, a Peruvian man known as "Uncle Charlie" is said to be a famous connection for drug mules in the nation's capital.

"He is very, very famous here in Peru without a doubt. He is well known on the drug scene," the source added.

In this instance, "Uncle Charlie" supplied McCollum (23) with 5.8kg of cocaine cut with starch packaged in some 16 food packets.

Reid (22), from Scotland, received 18 packages containing 5.7kg of the drug.

"He is not a very nice guy. That is for sure. But Michaella does not seem to mind too much. She is living in Miraflores now - not far from him."

McCollum has been living in the plush area on the Pacific coast since her release from prison last Thursday.

She refused to speak to our reporters earlier this week before scrambling into a taxi.

The former dancer was freed under new legislation on early release that was introduced last year.

In a concession that was not previously offered to drug mules, the two young women were allowed to work or study in exchange for days off their sentences.

A judicial process will now determine what, if any, conditions are attached to McCollum's parole.

The only current stipulation is that she must sign on in a courthouse once a month.

Last night she was spotted out socialising with her mother and friends in a busy coffee shop.

The bottle blonde could be seen texting on a smartphone while talking to Peruvian pals.

Clutching a designer handbag and dressed in black skinny jeans and a black top, the Dungannon woman looked polished in heavy makeup, ruby red lipstick and sparkling earings.

It has also emerged that the smuggler has paid the €2,500 she owes to the state for her stay behind bars in the country's notorious Ancon Dos prison.

Under Peruvian law, convicted prisoners must pay towards the costs of their incarceration, which usually amounts to around €3,500.

Although not due until the end of their sentences, both McCollum and Reid paid the fees last May.

Irish Independent

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