A woman who swallowed almost a kilo of cocaine before smuggling it in to Ireland from Brazil has been sentenced to two years in prison.
Silmara Onofre (27) put herself at “considerable risk” by consuming the drugs before she was stopped by customs officers at Dublin Airport, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard on Thursday.
Onofre, with an address in Brazil, pleaded guilty to possessing €66,297 worth of cocaine at Terminal One on April 17th last.
At her sentence hearing, counsel said Onofre had been “manipulated, exploited and used by other people” when she was financially desperate and struggling.
Paraic Dwyer SC, defending, said that Onofre was “so disposable” to other people that her life had been put at risk to facilitate the transport of drugs.
Mr Dwyer said it was “potentially fatal” to have consumed the drugs and that Onofre had needed medication to help her swallow 78 pellets and settle her stomach. The court heard that after her arrest, Onofre was taken to Beaumont Hospital where she passed the pellets under medical supervision.
In his sentence delivered on Thursday, Judge Martin Nolan agreed that Onofre was “at the bottom rung of the ladder” and said she could be called a “drugs mule”.
“Some people in Ireland have an unending appetite for cocaine and parties abroad seek to fulfil that,” said Judge Nolan. He said Onofre had taken “a considerable risk,” which implied a “level of desperation”.
Garda Eimear Lawlor told Olan Callanan BL, prosecuting, that Onofre was stopped at customs on a flight from Portugal. Officers became suspicious due to her demeanour and the answers she gave about her route and her payment for travel, the court heard.
Onofre was arrested and brought to Beaumont Hospital where she passed over 70 pellets of cocaine weighing 0.949kg. She came forward on signed pleas from the District Court and cooperated fully with gardaí.
The court heard Onofre came from a place of poverty in Brazil and was the sole bread winner for her mother and her two-year-old daughter. She has no previous convictions in any jurisdictions.
When asked by gardaí whether she knew whether the drugs she had swallowed were illegal, Onofre replied: “Because it was hiding inside of me, I knew.”
Mr Dwyer said Onofre was a beautician but had had limited work in that capacity in Brazil. She broke down in court as counsel described how she has difficulties making contact with her young daughter due to marriage breakdown.
Counsel said Onofre has been doing very well in prison and is working in reception, sewing and learning English. She regrets the offence, the court heard.
Judge Nolan backdated the sentence to April 17th last, when Onofre went into custody.