A Portuguese national was jailed on a Friday for a year after he was caught smuggling £80,000 worth of cocaine into Northern Ireland in his body.
Belfast Crown Court heard Mario Orlando Dacruz had swallowed 35 “small packages” of cocaine with a purity of up to 69 per cent.
A judge told the 52-year-old, from Rua Armando Lucena in Lisbon, that “if one of the packages had burst you would likely have died”.
Dacruz pleaded guilty to charges of illegally importing a Class A and possessing the drug with intent to supply.
Prosecution lawyer Kate McKay told Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland that Dacruz was arrested at Belfast City Airport on July 30, 2018 on a flight from Faro in Portugal.
“He was stopped by Border Force officers and swab tests were carried out which gave a positive indication for cocaine,’’ said Mrs McKay.
“He admitted that he had swallowed 35 small packages of cocaine and was taken to Antrim Area Hospital where he passed 35 pellets containing 280 grammes of cocaine.’’
The court heard that Dacruz was taken to Antrim police station where he admitted attempting to import the Class A drug into Northern Ireland.
Judge McFarland heard that a forensic analysis of the drugs showed that the purity was between 65-69 per cent.
At interview, he told police that he came from a deprived background and had “agreed with a black man who came to his neighbourhood to import the drugs’’.
Said Mrs McKay: “He said this was to pay for new teeth he had lost due to his ill-health. He said he had used heroin and cocaine in the past and as a result he had contracted HIV from injecting with dirty needles.’’
The court heard his travel documents showed that in recent times Dacruz had travelled to London, Paris and Dublin.
The prosecution lawyer said his mobile phone was examined and as a result a second person “has been made amenable for similar type offending”.
Dacruz, the court was told, made the case to police that he was “not acting under duress”.
However, he told the Probation Service he had “some drug debts’ and claimed that a “male called at his home and threatened him that he would not see his mother again if he didn’t take the cocaine’’.
Mrs McKay said police believe that the total potential value of the drugs was between £75,000-£80,000.
A defence barrister told the court that Dacruz was acting as a “courier’’and was to receive €600 (Euros) for bringing the drugs to Northern Ireland.
He said that the defendant admitted that he had a previous conviction in Portugal for a drug offence and that he will be deported back to home after the completion of a prison sentence.
The Belfast Recorder said Dacruz had been stopped at Belfast City Airport and found to have 35 packages of cocaine in his body.
“That is a risky enterprise as far as you were concerned because if one of those packages had burst you would have likely died,” said Judge McFarland.
The judge sentenced Dacruz to two years, with one year in custody and a further 12 months on licence.
Judge McFarland also granted a prosecution application for a destruction of the drugs.