Video: Peru drug suspects plead guilty - sources

Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid made plea before judge in Lima

Two women charged in Peru with drug trafficking are set to go on trial in Peru on Tuesday (September 24) and could face up to 18 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said. Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid were arrested in August.

Tue, Sep 24, 2013, 20:56

Two women being held in Peru on suspicion of trying to smuggle cocaine worth €1.7 million out of the country have pleased guilty, sources said tonight.

The hearing of Michaella McCollum Connolly (20) from Dungannon, Co Tyrone and Melissa Reid (20) from Glasgow appeared before a judge in Lima for questioning.

The pair made the behind-closed-doors plea when they appeared before a judge in the capital Lima today. Sources said the women had taken full responsibility for the drug trafficking.

The women have been held in custody in the capital Lima since they were stopped with 24lb of cocaine hidden in food packets in their luggage while trying to board a flight to Spain last month.

Ms Reid and Ms McCollum have claimed they were forced to carry the drugs by an armed gang who threatened them and their family members.

Speaking outside the court in Lima, lawyer Meyer Fishman said he could not comment until the young women were sentenced.

The two had the option of pleading guilty in exchange for a lower sentence. The pair were told that if they plead guilty, they could face a minimum of six years and eight months in prison with no eligibility for parole.

Ms Reid’s father Billy said last week that she is negotiating a plea in the hope she will be sentenced to less than seven years in jail, which would allow her to be transferred to Britain to serve her sentence.

Earlier prosecutor Luis Mendoza said if convicted “it’s very possible that they may complete their sentence in the United Kingdom [and Northern Ireland]. There is an agreement in our country that those convicted, meaning those that have been convicted, they can choose an early termination procedure, assuming their guilt and paying civil damages and agreeing to the judgement, meaning there is no kind of appeal.”

Mr Mendoza said the women appeared to have been duped by a gang into smuggling the drugs.

“The position of the Public Ministry is that they were captured by an organisation, imagine that they told them that everything here was controlled, that nothing was going to happen and it’s an adventure. That they simply had to transfer the drugs and no one would detain or discover them.”

According to Peru’s national prisons institute, 90 per cent of the 1,648 foreigners in the country’s prisons are either sentenced or awaiting trial for drug trafficking.

PA