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3 Pinay ‘drug mules’ sentenced to 21-24 years in jail

20 August 2018

Hong Kong's High Court 


By Vir B. Lumicao

Three Filipinas convicted of drug-related charges for bringing four kilos of cocaine into Hong Kong in September 2015 have been sentenced to between nearly 21 and 24 years in jail at the High Court.

Shirley Chua, Remelyn Roque and Ana Louella Creus were all sobbing even before Judge Audrey Campbell-Moffat of the Court of First Instance meted out the sentences at half past noon on Monday, Aug 20, after their lawyers argued for lenient sentences.

One of the suitcases where the cocaine was found
Chua was convicted of trafficking in a dangerous drug but acquitted of conspiracy to traffic the illegal substance at the end of a jury trial on Nov 14 last year. Roque and Creus were found guilty of conspiring to traffic in a dangerous drug.

A fourth co-accused, Maricel Thomas, was acquitted after trial on Nov 14.

Before sentencing, lawyers for the three cited a letter from the Philippine Consulate General saying that the vital information provided by the defendants during video recorded interviews had stopped cocaine trafficking from Manila to Hong Kong.

During mitigation, Roque’s counsel tried to contest the verdict, saying her client was convicted without the jury being able to establish a conspiracy beyond reasonable doubt. She also cited the vital information her client gave Philippine anti-drug authorities that led to the arrest Nora Noora, who organized the Hong Kong trip of the four on Sept 25, 2015.   

But Campbell-Moffat disregarded the grounds cited, saying Roque was the recruiter of the other drug carriers for that trip, and that the jury had considered her role and the large volume of phone messages between her and Noora as well as the other defendants in convicting her.

The judge sentenced Roque to 22 years and 11 months in jail.

Chua, aged 46 at the time of her arrest three years ago, received a 20-year and 11-month sentence for drug trafficking.

Creus was sentenced to 24 years and five months for her role in handing over two suitcases containing about 2 kilos of cocaine to two black men in a lift lobby in Chung King Mansions.
       
The judge gave a six-month discount in the sentence of each of the defendants for participating in an anti-drug trafficking campaign by correctional chaplain Fr John Wotherspoon. They also got a further 7% off their sentences for sharing information that led to the arrests in 2015 of Laguna-based Ugandan drug lord Rufus Katumba and his wife Marilyn Ramos.

Chua and Thomas were arrested on Sept 25, 2015, after their two suitcases yielded about 2 kilograms of cocaine during a Customs check at Hong Kong International Airport.

Customs officers pounced on Roque and Creus as they were about to board a flight back to Manila on Sept 27 after delivering two suitcases believed to contain a kilo each of cocaine to a consignee at Chung King Mansions in Tsimshatsui.

Thomas was acquitted of all charges.

The prosecution said the defendants conspired with Noora, who met with all four in Roque’s house in Cavite on Sept 23, 2015 and briefed them on their mission in Hong Kong.  Noora also booked their air tickets, provided them the four traveling bags containing the cocaine slabs, gave them $1,500 each shopping money and specific instructions to take the bags to Chung King Mansions.
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Thomas joined the group at the last minute after a boyfriend of Noora changed his mind a day before departure, the court was told.

The four split in groups of two when they landed in Hong Kong and Roque and Creus went through Customs without any hitch. When Chua and Thomas went missing following their arrest, Noora kept in touch with Roque, giving directions regarding the delivery of the two suitcases.

Relatives of Creus, single and a dentist by profession, were in the gallery during the court session and approached the dock where the convicts were after the sentencing.  

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