Former Smuggler on the Peru Two

Posted on 24. Jul, 2014 by in peru

If you haven’t heard of the “Peru Two,” from UK drug smugglers jailed in Peru (link contains video):

Two UK women caught trying to smuggle cocaine out of Peru have been jailed for six years and eight months each.

Michaella McCollum, of Dungannon, County Tyrone, and Melissa Reid, of Lenzie, near Glasgow, both 20, admitted trying to smuggle cocaine worth £1.5m.

They were jailed for eight years each, but the sentences were reduced because of their guilty pleas.

The prison terms will run from their arrest on 6 August this year until 5 April 2020.

The women were caught with 11kg (24lb) of cocaine in their luggage.

They were stopped and searched at Lima‘s international airport where the cocaine was found hidden inside packages of food.

Police said they had been due to fly to Madrid, then on to Majorca.

The women had reportedly told the Peruvian authorities they were working in Ibiza and did not meet before they were both kidnapped at gunpoint and forced to travel to Majorca.

They claimed they were then sent to Peru and forced to carry the drugs in their luggage.

The food they hid the cocaine in was Quaker oatmeal with Maca. As cool as Maca is, nobody brings 24 pounds of it home.

Drug mules don’t normally gain international attention when they’re caught. It happens every day. However, McCollum and Reid claimed they were forced into smuggling:

They’ve since come clean and are serving their sentences. See what it’s like where McCollum and Reid are locked up in Peru’s Ancon 2 prison (with video):

bbc.com/news/uk-23744778

So far this article hasn’t added anything new to the story. That’s where my former smuggler pal comes in. I asked him to weigh in on the Peru Two and add anything interesting about the industry.

[start Smuggler]

I never met anyone who was legitimately tricked or forced into being a drug mule. A friend of mine told me it happened to the mother of someone he knows, a kindly old lady who agreed to take a suitcase back to the U.S. for a relative. I guess that might happen, but I never personally met anyone like that, and even that kindly old lady sounds suspect to me. Trying to say you were forced or tricked into carrying drugs is the standard desperation go-to line to try to get off the hook, or at least to save face. In the case of these girls…

They were working in Ibiza, so right away you know their story. It’s a party capital, major drug scene, lots of young people, lots of people working angles, lots of people who want to make money to keep the party going. These girls met someone who was moving some merchandise, and they probably met a couple of other mules who’d successfully done it already. They made it sound safe and easy.

At first glance, putting that much coke into bags of oatmeal seems really dumb and unprofessional. It’s possible these were just some especially dumb Peruvians, but being as it was a fairly healthy amount, and being how they almost surely met their contact in Ibiza, it was probably someone who is at least moderately successful. So my guess is, the cops in Peru were paid off to look the other way, and at least 9 times out 10 customs will ignore the pretty white girls when they land in Europe. It may seem like a stupid plan, but in reality, it probably had a 90%+ chance of working.

So what happened was probably one of three things:

  1. Most likely, the cops who were paid off at the Lima airport simply fucked up.
  2. The cops deliberately fucked over the guy who paid them off.
  3. My favorite reason – the guy who was supposed to pay the cops just pocketed the money and fucked off. Peruvians will do that kind of shit.

Now, if they were going back to Blighty, prices there are highly variable. Let’s call it anywhere between $40,000 to $80,000 per kilo wholesale. They had 11 kilos, so there was probably 15-20 and the cops took some off the top for themselves to sell (standard operating procedure). Let’s say there were 16 and the guy spent about $20,000 to buy it, and maybe another $10,000 in packaging, airfare, and incidentals. My approximate guess is that someone laid out $30,000 for a 90% chance of making $800,000. Them’s pretty good fuckin’ odds.

A standard reasonable rate to pay the girls would be $5,000 per kilo. I’d guess they were offered less than that, but who knows. If they had a 90% chance of making $20,000-40,000 each just for getting on and off an airplane, that’s not bad. Most people work really hard for a whole year to make that much money, and these girls make it in a day for nothing more than having guts.

Unless you land in that unlucky 10%. It sounds like they’re making the best of prison life and trying to stay positive. I’m sure she could write about the cockroaches and the rats and the terrible food and the neverending, overwhelming stress of living on top of each other 24/7. But prison’s supposed to suck. We’re all a lot more adaptable than we believe – when you’re in it, you figure out how to adjust. They’ll be fine.

Not sure if I’d prefer a Scottish prison over Peru or not, that’s a tough call, but if they stay in Peru they’ll probably be out in 2-3 years and on their way.

I’m always a little bemused by reactions to stories like this. A civilian would think, “Wow, this is so stupid, only a dumb or desperate person would ever do this, these drug mules always get caught or killed, look at this movie or this news article about this person…” People don’t seem to realize these stories are just the lowest of the low-hanging fruit, and the real business is so much bigger than they think they know. The fact is these girls were almost certain to succeed, and a whole lot more just like them are succeeding every single day, on international flights all over the planet. The business is fucking huge. It’s not unusual these girls were smuggling drugs; it’s unusual they got caught.

There are about a million ways to smuggle drugs and the cops have seen ALL of them. And still, at least 9 times out of 10, the drugs get through. I’ve gotten away with pretty blatant things that might seem dumb, like it would never work. But keep in mind that cops and security guards aren’t robots. They’re just people, they make mistakes, they get distracted, they don’t notice everything, their attention is limited, they certainly don’t always pick the right people or things to pay attention to. And sometimes even when they might know, they just don’t give a shit. That’s why hot, white, upper-class-looking girls are the ideal. A lot of cops might give them a pass and move on to the lower-class, dark-skinned alternatives.

That’s not me being racist, that’s the reality. The war on drugs isn’t a war on drugs at all. It’s an institutional war on “undesireables.” A savvy trafficker will take advantage of that fact whenever he can.

The authorities not giving a shit is more common than you might expect. Consider the post office. Even if a package smells like weed, how many postal workers are likely to turn it in? Not many. Half of them are probably stoned anyway.

So in this case, when a shipment falls, who pays? Simply, whoever bought the merchandise loses his money. But you can see margins are high enough that you’d have to somehow lose a lot of shipments before you actually start losing money overall. You just eat the cost of a lost shipment. If you borrowed money to buy the stuff, you still owe the money. The buyer on the receiving end in Europe or the U.S. or wherever doesn’t have any obligations.

Where it gets sticky is when something goes screwy, something is lost and there’s no proof what happened. This is common with mid-size shipments where a group of guys threw in money for a hundred kilos. It’s enough money to present serious problems, but not big or clever enough to make the papers. When the guys on the receiving end say the stuff didn’t arrive, or it showed up short of what it was supposed to be, what do you do? That’s where people start getting hurt. It’s why trust is everything, and also why some people try to do as much as possible by themselves – no one wants to have to deal with others’ potential for cheating.

[end Smuggler]

Some songs for those who tried and failed:

Fruko y Sus Tesos – El Preso

Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues

Akon ft. Styles P – Locked Up

Do you enjoy stories like this? Support the Kickstarter campaign to fund This Mick’s Life: Addiction and Underworld from Ireland to Colombia. See the Kickstarter page here:

kickstarter.com/projects/expatchronicles/this-micks-life

this micks life kickstarter logo

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2 Responses to “Former Smuggler on the Peru Two”

  1. Mark Kennedy

    24. Jul, 2014

    6 years and 8 months, that´s a pretty lenient sentence. Don´t try that shit in Asia. Drug trafficking is punishable by death in most Asian countries — even for foreign smugglers.

  2. Franco

    03. Apr, 2015

    It seems that you friend smuggler has something against Peruvians. Otherwise I don’t understand his opinion about Peruvians who “wiil do that kind of sheet”, as betraying other fellow smugglers or drug dealers.

    It may be hard to believe, but the fact is that most Peruvians are not involved in drug dealing and instead of doing that kind of sheet they will go to work every day, most of them to make very little money.

    Also is good to learn that the very honest drug dealers from Scotland or Britain will never do something like betraying other drug dealers.

    I also consider that your friend is wrong or at least naive when he says that airport police will not check on white upper class looking girls. I have been in Ibiza and saw a lot of white british girls, but none of them looked upper class and airpot police in Peru will note the difference between white upper class and plain white. In fact peruvian prisons are full of “burriers” captured in the airport, most of them white, ignorant, poor and desperate. They are cannon fodder for the fighting effort against drug dealing.

    Finally you should include in your investigation information about the pro drug dealers those who have their own planes and landing stripes, they don’t need airport burriers and of course they usually don’t get caught.

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