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DH in drug parcel case acquitted, allowed to look for new job

23 April 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao 

A Fi­lipino maid jailed for six months after taking delivery of an air parcel containing cocaine was freed by a magistrate on Mar 31 after prosecution lawyers withdrew the charge against her for insufficiency of evidence.

Estrella G. Welba, a 39-year-old single mother, was ordered freed by Magistrate So Wai-Tak at West Kowloon court. She had pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking.

Freedom came unexpectedly for the Filipina, as she was due to return to court on Apr 10 before the transfer of her case to the High Court.

Welba told The SUN she was surprised when a correctional officer at Tai Lam Centre for Women in Tuen Mun told her to dress up and attend an urgent court hearing.

“I had been praying that I would be acquitted because I am innocent of the charge,” Welba said.

She said she drew strength from prison chaplain Father John Wotherspoon, an Australian priest who has been waging a campaign to gain freedom for women jailed for unwittingly carrying dangerous drugs for Nigerian drug syndicates operating in Hong Kong.

“Father John kept advising me to tell the truth and be consistent with my statements,” Welba said.

She told The SUN that she was allowed to look for a new employer following her acquittal, but the Immigration gave her only a two-day visa extension.

She left for Macau Apr 5, hoping to return to Hong Kong and process a new work contract.

Welba was arrested on Sept 23 last year by customs and police operatives right after she signed a delivery receipt for the air parcel that was delivered to her boarding house in North Point by an officer posing as a DHL staff.

Earlier reports said she was nabbed in her employer’s flat.

The package, found to contain a substance with 478 grams of cocaine, was sent from the Somali capital, Addis Ababa, by Welba’s former boyfriend, a Nigerian based in Chung King Mansion in Tsimshatsui.

Welba said her relationship with the Nigerian did not last long and that she met him only three times before she broke off because she discovered in his Facebook account that she had a wife, also a Filipina.

She initially told an officer that she had no idea who had sent it to her until she suddenly remembered that after she parted with the Nigerian last May, he asked her if she could receive a package from him that a friend would pick up later.

Welba said she agreed but did not realize she would be sent a dangerous drug.

When she appeared at West Kowloon Court on Mar 3, she said her duty lawyer told her that if she got convicted, she would be sentenced to 12-15 years in jail, so she prayed hard for an acquittal.

“I told myself that by telling the truth I will be acquitted, and I had been telling that to other inmates also awaiting trial for drug trafficking,” she said.

On Apr 2, Welba went to the Consulate to ask for help, particularly for temporary shelter and getting a visa extension from the Immigration Department, where she was to recover her passport.

She also asked for a plane ticket home from the social welfare office at the Consulate but was unsuccessful.

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