A Bolivian woman who swallowed more than 1.3 kilos of cocaine before boarding a flight to Dublin has been jailed for one year.
Patricia Rea Suarez (40) put her life at risk when she ingested 41 pellets of cocaine before taking a flight from Sao Paolo, Brazil to Dublin via Lisbon, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard today.
The mother-of-one was taken to hospital by concerned gardaí after she was arrested in Dublin airport earlier this year and spent five days being treated.
The total amount of drugs she eventually passed had a street value of €92,000.
Suarez, with an address in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, pleaded guilty to possessing drugs for sale or supply and importing illegal drugs at Dublin Airport on May 22. She has been in custody since her arrest.
Handing down sentence, Judge Martin Nolan accepted Suarez had ingested the drugs in return for €2000 cash. “Due to her poverty at the time, she involved herself in this crime out of desperation,” he said.
He accepted she was deeply remorseful, had cooperated with gardaí, has no previous convictions and would not be returning to Ireland after her release. He accepted that her separation from her 10-year-old son in Bolivia was a “further cause of trauma and difficulty” for her.
He backdated the one-year sentence to when she first went into custody. “I suspect if nothing occurs (in custody) she will be out shortly after Christmas,” he said.
Suarez wiped away tears as the sentence was handed down.
Garda Elaine Traynor told John Quirke BL, prosecuting, that Suarez was stopped by customs officers at Dublin airport who had received a confidential tip-off. Traces of cocaine were found on her phone and she was arrested.
She was hospitalised shortly afterwards, with consultants fearing the pellets would burst inside her. She suffered “severe pain” passing the 41 large pellets, the court heard.
Upon her release from hospital, she was interviewed by gardaí where she asked for forgiveness from the people of Ireland. She said she couldn't say who was due to meet her in Dublin airport out of fear for her family.
“I've seen people dying,” she told gardaí. “I've seen people killed for drugs.”
Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, defending, said her client came from an extremely impoverished situation and was in “desperate financial straits” when she went looking for a way to make money.
She is a single mother who previously left an abusive relationship. Her brother died three weeks prior to the offence and the family was unable to pay for the funeral, the court heard.
Once Suarez started ingesting the drugs, “she didn't have the wherewithal to refuse after three pellets, or say 'that's enough' after six,” Ms Lawlor said.
“She was then no longer a participant who could choose the course of action.”
Ms Lawlor said her client had already spent six months in custody in Ireland away from her son and had paid the penalty. “She thought she was going to die,” she said.
She urged Judge Nolan to allow Suarez to return to Bolivia immediately, but the judge rejected this.
Judge Nolan said if the circumstances of the case had been different, he would have imposed a four or five year sentence. But he accepted Suarez was a “particularly vulnerable person”.
“I'm very sympathetic,” he said. “She seems a genuine and sincere lady.”