Northern Ireland

Cocaine: Portuguese man jailed for Belfast drug smuggling

A man holding a bag of cocaine Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The cocaine packages Dacruz had swallowed could have killed him, said the judge

A Portuguese man who was caught smuggling £80,000 worth of cocaine into Northern Ireland in his body has been jailed for a year.

Mario Orlando Dacruz, 52, had swallowed 35 "small packages" of the drug, Belfast Crown Court heard.

A judge told him: "If one of the packages had burst you would likely have died."

Dacruz pleaded guilty to illegally importing a class A drug and possessing it with intent to supply.

A prosecution lawyer told the judge that Dacruz, from Rua Armando Lucena in Lisbon, was arrested at Belfast City Airport on 30 July last year after a flight from Faro in Portugal.

'Pay for new teeth'

"He was stopped by Border Force officers and swab tests were carried out, which gave a positive indication for cocaine," she said.

"He admitted that he had swallowed 35 small packages of cocaine and was taken to Antrim Area Hospital, where he passed 35 pellets containing 280g (9.9oz) of cocaine."

The court heard that Dacruz was taken to Antrim police station, where he admitted attempting to import the class A drug to Northern Ireland.

The prosecution barrister told the court: "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 that Dacruz's travel documents showed that he had recently travelled to Dublin, London and Paris.

'Risky enterprise'

Dacruz made the case to police that he was "not acting under duress".

But he told the Probation Service he had "some drug debts" and claimed that a man had called at his home and threatened him that he would not see his mother again if he did not take the cocaine.

A defence barrister said that Dacruz was acting as a "courier" and was to receive €600 (£528) for taking the drugs to Northern Ireland.

He said the defendant admitted that he had a previous conviction in Portugal for a drug offence.

The judge told Dacruz that he had been involved in a "risky enterprise" due to the danger of the cocaine packages bursting inside him.

Dacruz will spend one year in prison and a further year on licence after his release.