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Elderly Fil-Am, ex-DH in court on separate drug trafficking cases

24 August 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

Nearly 3 kg of cocaine was found in this suitcase allegedly belonging to the elderly FilAm

An elderly Filipino-American man who was arrested at Hong Kong International Airport in July last year for carrying 2.8 kilograms of suspected cocaine in his luggage has chosen to stand trial on a charge of drug trafficking.

Rodolfo Purugganan, 77, appeared today, Aug 24, before Magistrate Stephanie Tsui in Eastern Court and said through a duty lawyer assigned to him that he wanted to plead not guilty to the charge.

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Though he was said to be a US citizen, Purugganan spoke to the court with help from an Ilocano interpreter.

Tsui ordered that the charge be read to the defendant so he could confirm it, reminding him that if he pleads guilty, the magistrate would commit him to the Court of First Instance for sentencing.
The defendant confirmed the charge and said he chose to trial, prompting Tsui to announce the transfer of the case to the High Court.

The magistrate instructed Purugganan to prepare his documents for the trial and, if he is going to submit an alibi, to do it no later than 10 days before the trial. She said he can apply for a lawyer from the Legal Aid Department.



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Purugganan, who has been in custody since his arrest on July 12, 2019, said he had no bail application, so Tsui ordered him remanded in custody.

The court heard that the defendant was arrested by Customs officers upon arrival from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after they found the slab of cocaine concealed in the false compartment of his luggage.

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The defendant reportedly flew to Ethiopia from Brazil, then on to Hong Kong.

During laboratory processing, the drug yielded 1.54kg of pure-grade cocaine, which the Customs officers had estimated to have a street value of $2.3 million. The accused was charged in West Kowloon Court with trafficking in a dangerous drug.
 
Both cases will be heard at the High Court because of the seriousness of the charges
Meanwhile, a Filipina who used to work as a domestic helper and her African co-defendant also appeared before Magistrate Tsui today for another hearing of their drug trafficking case.

The woman, Alma P. Montano, has been charged with attempting to traffic in dangerous drugs. Her co-defendant, Ifeanyi Nwokeji, has been charged with trafficking in dangerous drugs. No details of the case were read out in court.

The magistrate adjourned the case until Nov 2 after the prosecution asked for more time to prepare before the case is transferred to the High Court.

The two did not apply for bail and Tsui remanded them in custody.
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