A South African woman who attempted to smuggle a suitcase containing over €100,000 of cannabis through Dublin Airport has been given a five-year sentence.
Johanna Brits (27) was to receive €1,000 for making the delivery, but was forced to use her own money to pay the excess baggage fee for the suitcase which weighed over 19 kilograms.
Brits, of Silverpine Randburgh, Johannesburg, pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis herb for sale or supply at Dublin Airport on December 1, 2008.
Judge Patrick McCartan said Brits’ profile as a South African travelling alone would have raised customs officers suspicions due to the amount of drugs imported along that route He noted the garda opinion that the enterprise was never likely to succeed.
He said the message must go out that there are consequences to importing drugs into the country. Judge McCartan said there were circumstances in this case that made the 10-year minimum sentence normally applicable to this offence unjust, and imposed a five-year sentence.
And he suspended the final three years on condition that Brits does not return to the country for 10 years after her release.
Garda James Nugent told Paul Carroll, prosecuting, that Brits’ suitcase was X-rayed by customs and excise officers who discovered 20 heat-sealed slabs of cannabis herb with a street value of €124,218. She had arrived in Dublin on a flight from Johannesburg via Paris.
Brits, who has no previous convictions, told gardai that she had run into debt because of medical expenses and was to be paid €1,000 for delivering the drugs.
Garda Nugent agreed with Conor Devally, defending, that Brits had come into contact with the drug dealers through her own use of cocaine at that time. He agreed that the suitcase was overweight and she had to pay excess charges when checking it in.
Garda Nugent told Judge McCartan that Brits was very low down the ladder of the drugs trade and he did not believe she would come before the courts again.
Mr Devally said Brits had been in custody since her arrest and had been using her time in prison to avail of educational opportunities.
He said she was not now a drug user and had witnessed the damage drugs can do during her time on remand.
He said her family had come from South Africa to be at the sentence hearing but could not afford to travel to Ireland on a frequent basis to visit her.
She was aware she has made a huge mistake but has taken advantage of the opportunities available to her.
By Fiona Ferguson