Woman jailed for six years for cannabis smuggling

A South African dementia sufferer who lost a bag containing €150,000 of cannabis at Dublin Airport has been jailed for six years.

Customs officials became suspicious when they found Valerie Haape’s bag unattended as it had somehow arrived in Ireland from Johannesburg before her. They noted the 61-year-old’s name on the bag label before finding her waiting at the baggage claim.

Haape thanked the officials for finding her bag and claimed her daughter had helped her pack it. An X-ray of the bag showed a large package containing almost 17 kilograms of cannabis herb.

Judge Martin Nolan directed that the balance of Haape’s sentence be suspended if and when prison authorities order her deportation.

Haape of the Glenheim Hotel, Durban, South Africa, initially said she had never seen the package before but then admitted she had been given the drugs by "some Nigerians" and was to give them to a man in Dublin called Tom.

She pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to importing drugs on February 22, 2008.

Garda Damien Rogers told prosecuting counsel, Mr Vincent Heneghan BL, that Haape "was used by smarter and more devious people in the background". He said the drugs were so heavy that she could not carry the bag on her own.

Following her arrest, she told gardaí that it had never been discussed how much she would be paid for transporting the drugs.

Gda Rogers said she had no previous convictions here or in South Africa and was divorced and "down on her luck". He described her as a vulnerable person who had mental health issues.

Defence counsel, Mr Padraig Dwyer SC, said she had been happily married for years before her husband killed himself. She remarried but her new husband was abusive and she divorced him and had lost the family home. Mr Dwyer said she had been living in a hostel.

Mr Dwyer said she had a "very difficult and sad life" and her medical report showed she suffered from dementia. He said that her condition was made obvious by her actions in the airport.

Judge Martin Nolan ordered Haape’s deportation from Ireland in the coming weeks and directed that the balance of her sentence be suspended on that date.

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