Brazilian drug mule sentenced
A Brazilian cocaine mule has been jailed for five years after being caught with more than $650,000 of the drug.
Lucas Henrique Pereira, 20, was sentenced in Manukau District Court today with the aid of a Portuguese translator.
He pleaded guilty to a charge of importing nearly 2kg of cocaine almost immediately after being caught with the class-A drug at Auckland International Airport on May 3.
He is the third high-quantity coke mule to be jailed in the last three months.
New Zealand Customs Service investigations manager Maurice O’Brien said it was another case of a young man being enticed with money to pose as a tourist and carry drugs into the country.
He said Pereira has learnt the hard way that "criminal syndicates don’t care about the consequences drug mules face when offering them these opportunities."
"This man has learnt the hard way that the promise of cash and free overseas travel was not worth the price he will pay," he said.
Judge Gerard Winter said Pereira’s case bore “remarkable similarities” to that of 39-year-old Joao Batista Da Silveira, another Brazilian who was jailed for six years after being caught with 2.35 kilograms of cocaine hidden in the lining of his suitcase.
And the case followed hot on the heels of 49-year-old Dutchman Peter Koeman who last month was also jailed for five years for smuggling in nearly a kilogram in his travel pillow.
Pereira was recruited in South America by a man called “Rusty” and promised he would be given $15,000 on delivery of the product.
He boarded a plane from Santiago, Chile but was intercepted by Immigration officials when he touched down in New Zealand.
Officials “extracted” 1.9kg of cocaine with a street value of $662,000.
Judge Winter said the commerciality of the operation and the premeditation involved were significant aggravating factors but Pereira received credit for his youth and genuine remorse he had shown.
He also “cooperated with police”, the judge said.
Pereira was jailed for five years and his lawyer Lester Cordwell said he would eventually be deported.
“He will be going to Brazil and staying for a while because I don’t think other countries will be letting him in,” he said.