Peru drugs Britons plead guilty
Two British women accused of attempting to smuggle £1.5 million worth of cocaine out of Peru have pleaded guilty, court officials said.
Michaella McCollum, 20, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, and Melissa Reid, 20, from Glasgow, gave behind-closed-doors pleas when they appeared before a judge in the port town of Callao, near the capital Lima.
The pair took full responsibility for drug trafficking after initially claiming they were forced to board a flight from Lima to Spain with 24lbs of cocaine in food packets hidden inside their luggage last month.
A spokesman for the court in Callao said: "They will automatically have a sixth off from the minimum jail sentence of eight years and will be sentenced to six years and eight months in prison. Sentencing will take place on October 1 at a new hearing."
Reid's family has previously said they are working with the Foreign Office in the hope that the Peruvian authorities will allow her to serve part of her sentence in the UK. Speaking outside the court in Lima, lawyer Meyer Fishman said he could not comment until the young women were sentenced.
Both women, who had been working on the Spanish party island of Ibiza this summer, had previously claimed they were coerced into carrying the drugs by Colombian drug lords who kidnapped them at gunpoint.
So far they have been held at the notorious Virgen de Fatima prison in Lima, but court officials said they may now be transferred to the equally tough Santa Monica women's jail.
Their guilty pleas came on the same day that the UN declared that Peru has now overtaken Colombia as the world's number one coca leaf producer. According to a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, coca plantations in Peru covered 60,400 hectares last year. Peru's national prisons institute says that 90% of the 1,648 foreigners in the country's prisons are either sentenced or awaiting trial for drug trafficking.
A law firm representing McCollum confirmed that she was interviewed by the investigating judge during a short hearing and accepted the charges. The judge may allow press and media to attend the sentencing hearing.
McCollum's lawyer, Peter Madden, said: "I intend to travel to Lima next week to attend the sentencing hearing and after the sentence is handed down by the judge, it will be possible to make further comment."
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