Belfast Telegraph

David Ford: No pact for jailed drugs mule Michaella McCollum to return home

By Chris Kilpatrick

No agreement has been struck with the Peruvian authorities for drugs mule Michaella McCollum to be transferred to a prison in Northern Ireland.

Earlier this year it was reported the Co Tyrone woman could return within months.

McCollum's lawyer said he had received confirmation the transfer request had been accepted by the Peruvian authorities.

But Justice Minister David Ford has revealed there are currently no arrangements in place for the 20-year-old's repatriation.

One of the issues which would have to be resolved before the move would be the length of time McCollum would serve behind bars here for trying to smuggle a huge haul of cocaine.

McCollum and 21-year-old Scottish woman Melissa Reid were caught trying to smuggle £1.5m of cocaine out of Peru and were jailed after pleading guilty. They were each sentenced to six years and eight months, starting from their arrest in August last year.

McCollum's family has been campaigning to have her transferred to Northern Ireland from the tough Peruvian prison in which she is currently being held.

Mr Ford yesterday confirmed his department had not yet agreed any transfer. "No arrangements have yet been reached with the Peruvian authorities for the repatriation of Michaella McCollum to a prison in Northern Ireland," he said.

Mr Ford said his department had not been in discussion with authorities in the Republic over any move which would see McCollum leave Peru early.

He added: "It would be inappropriate to disclose at this stage how long Michaella McCollum may have to serve in custody were she to be repatriated to Northern Ireland given that the Northern Ireland Prison Service has yet to have those discussions with either her or her legal representatives."

The Department of Justice has received 24 applications from prisoners outside the UK seeking repatriation to Northern Ireland since the devolution of policing and justice. Nine were approved, six rejected, five withdrawn and four are ongoing.

Story so far

Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid became known as the Peru Two after they were caught trying to smuggle £1.5m of cocaine. The women initially claimed they had been threatened with being shot if they did not make the journey from Ibiza, where they had been working in clubs and bars, after being befriended by a man from London. In July, Peruvian police revealed McCollum had finally admitted she did smuggle cocaine.

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