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Drug-smuggler Michaella McCollum to be moved to NI prison

Police escort Michaella McCollum Connolly left, and Melissa Reid in handcuffs as they are moved to a court to be formally charged for drug trafficking in Lima, Peru. AP Photo/Martin Mejia

Police escort Michaella McCollum Connolly left, and Melissa Reid in handcuffs as they are moved to a court to be formally charged for drug trafficking in Lima, Peru. AP Photo/Martin Mejia

Convicted drug smuggler Michaella McCollum is set to be transferred from Peru to a jail in Northern Ireland.

McCollum, from Dungannon, County Tyrone, and her accomplice Melissa Reid, from Glasgow, were jailed last year for six years and eight months.

They admitted trying to smuggle cocaine worth £1.5 million from Peru to Spain.

McCollum’s Belfast-based lawyer Kevin Winters has received confirmation from the Irish government’s Department of Foreign Affairs that the prison transfer request has been accepted by the Peruvian authorities.

However, it could be months before the Co Tyrone woman returns home as the logistics of the transfer will be complicated.

Prisoners must be accompanied throughout their journey and airlines and airports must be advised, with security arrangements put in place at departure, transit and final stops.

The pair were caught with the £1.5 million haul at Lima airport on August 6.

They were working on the Spanish party island of Ibiza last summer when they claimed they were forced by Colombian drug lords who kidnapped them at gunpoint to board a flight with 24lb of cocaine in food packets hidden inside their luggage.

As McCollum is an Irish citizen, officials in Dublin have had a significant role in liaising with the Peruvian authorities following her detention. Reid has also bid for transfer to Scotland, but this is being dealt with by different lawyers.

McCollum, 21, and Reid faced the prospect of a maximum 15-year prison term but struck a behind-closed-doors plea bargain to secure a shorter sentence.

They had previously been held at Lima’s Virgen de Fatima prison but McCollum was moved to the notorious Ancon 2 prison where horrific conditions reportedly mean she is crammed into a cell with 30 other prisoners.

The situation at the mixed prison, which is two-and-a-half hours from Lima, has previously been criticised by McCollum’s lawyer as “appalling”.

Kevin Winters said sanitation and toilet facilities are extremely poor and all females have to use a hole in the ground which has to be covered up because of the presence of vermin.

 

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