Two Britons have been charged with drug smuggling in Peru
Two British women arrested in Peru under suspicion of attempting to smuggle 11kg of cocaine out of the country have been charged and now face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
Michaella McCollum, of Dungannon in Northern Ireland, and Melissa Reid, of Lenzie near Glasgow, were arrested as they tried to board a flight from the Peruvian capital Lima to Madrid.
On searching their luggage, police found a number of food pouches stuffed with cocaine amounting to a street value of £1.5 million.
The pair, who have spent the last two weeks in custody, were taken from their holding cells on Tuesday and transferred by a heavily armed police escort to the neighbouring province of Callao, which has jurisdiction.
After a brief medical examination and psychiatric tests, the two 20-year-old women made full statements before the public prosecutor and were then detained in Callao to await the decision whether to charge them.
Miss McCollum and Miss Reid are now likely to be transferred to prison to await trial. The pair could face up to three years in custody before any trial takes place if they are refused bail.
Peter Madden, a human rights lawyer acting for Miss McCollum, has criticised the conditions the two women are being held in, saying that the holding cells are “pretty grim”.
Mr Madden said: “They are expected to lie on the floor, there’s a sort of a sponge-type bed which is just not acceptable. There are not blankets – it’s not clean.”
He added: “And the most important thing is they haven’t actually been offered any food today and it doesn’t look as though they are going to be.”
Both women deny the allegations and say an armed gang forcibly recruited them while they were working in Ibiza and that they travelled to Peru under duress.
Those convicted of drug trafficking in Peru receive an average sentence of eight to nine years in prison, but harsher sentences are given for those found to be part of a criminal organisation.