Monday 23 April 2018

Michaella's €2,500 bed and board bill for Peru jail cell

Michaella McCollum on RTE
Michaella McCollum on RTE
Adam Cullen

Adam Cullen

Drugs mule Michaella McCollum had to pay more than €2,500 to the Peruvian government – the cost of her accommodation and food after she was locked up for trying to smuggle €1.8m worth of cocaine from Lima to Europe.

As well as being locked up for just over two years, McCollum (23) and her Scottish accomplice Melissa Reid had to each hand over 10,000 Peruvian Sol (€2,560) to the authorities last May.

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

The prison service said drug mules rarely settle their bills, usually leaving the country before there is a chance to issue proceedings to recoup the costs. 

A picture of Michaella McCollum taken by Peru Police .
Pic:Mark Condren
A picture of Michaella McCollum taken by Peru Police . Pic:Mark Condren

However, sources said McCollum and Reid paid the money owed plus other costs 11 months ago. 

They also had to part with a fee when they requested a transfer from Lima’s Virgen de Fatima prison – where they were forced to share a cell with up to 30 other inmates – to Ancon Dos in 2014.

In official documents seen by the Herald, doctors, psychologists and prison staff deemed in 2014 that McCollum was “a suitable candidate for transfer”.

In the report, one psychologist noted that the Co Tyrone woman was a “reformed character” who was beginning to see the error of her ways.

The documents said she had “accepted responsibility for her actions” and added that she now realised the consequences that her “activity would have had on society”.

McCollum and Reid were sentenced in 2013 to six years and eight months after admitting trying to smuggle the cocaine to Spain.

Michaella McCollum in the back of a taxi in Lima. Photo: Mark Condren
Michaella McCollum in the back of a taxi in Lima. Photo: Mark Condren

McCollum, an aspiring model and photography student from Dungannon, was released on parole at 5pm last Thursday after serving two years and three months.

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.

“If you work for five days you will get one day off,” a government source said.

“Because of corruption, it is not always the fairest method. Your work days are logged in a book which is then presented to a judge.

“You can work extra days or not work and just pay for them from guards in the prison. In effect, it’s a way of buying your impunity.”

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

It had been reported that moves are being made to repatriate her to Northern Ireland, but sources said this would probably not happen until the end of the year.

Reid, from Lenzie, near Glasgow, is still in Ancon Dos as she has petitioned for a transfer to Scotland, where she will serve the rest of her sentence, rather than take advantage of parole in Peru.

McCollum has been staying in an apartment in the Miraflores district, one of Lima’s most affluent neighbourhoods, with family and friends.

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