Brazil paroles Namibian drug mules

26 February 2019 | Crime

Five Namibian women, who were convicted in Brazil on drug-related charges between 2016 and 2018, have been released from prison.

The Namibian police spokesperson, Deputy Commissioner Edwin Kanguatjivi, confirmed yesterday that the women, aged between 30 and 33, who had been released on parole, were doing community service in Brazil until they complete their five-year sentences. The women were arrested at São Paulo International Airport on drug-trafficking charges. Kanguatjivi said the women were recruited in Windhoek to collect parcels of Brazilian hair extensions, shoes and clothing. “On exiting Brazil they were apprehended at the airport, charged and ultimately sentenced to five years' imprisonment.”

Kanguatjivi said the Namibian police had repeatedly warned against such activities, but this message apparently did not reach its intended audience.

“As such, we once again appeal to our young women to be vigilant and not to fall prey to drug dealers,” said Kanguatjivi

Incidents of Namibian women being used in such crimes are becoming more common.

Recruiters are reported to target desperate girls, paying them nominal fees while retaining the bulk of the smuggling fee.

Kanguatjivi warned the public against syndicates that recruit young, unsuspecting Namibian women to become drug mules.

Namibian Sun reported in 2017 that security experts had warned that more locals might be persuaded to act as drug mules because of the desperate economic situation.

That year several Namibian women were arrested for trafficking drugs from Brazil, including a May 2017 arrest at São Paulo International Airport.

Dedre Anzell Strauss, who was in her early thirties at the time, was arrested at the airport for being in possession of cocaine.

Strauss left Namibia on 17 May 2017 on a South African Airways flight and was on her way back from Brazil on 24 May.

It is alleged that she left the country with her boyfriend, who was from Brazil.

Her arrest followed barely a month after a 33-year-old Namibian woman was arrested for smuggling cocaine into South Africa from Brazil.

In this incident, Lena de Waal was arrested at the end of April at OR Tambo International Airport after travelling from São Paulo.

The South African Hawks discovered 5 kilograms of cocaine to the value of N$2 million, which was wrapped in foil inside her luggage.

In April 2016, Melanie van Niekerk was arrested in Brazil after allegedly being found in possession of drugs at an airport.

A few years ago seven Namibian women were arrested in Brazil for drug possession and were held in São Paulo prisons. The women were aged between 20 and 40, and were arrested during the course of 2011.

They were allegedly trying to smuggle drugs to Southern Africa.

Human Rights Watch has cited Brazil's female prisons for the ill-treatment of women, saying the jail population has increased by 161% in the last decade.

A 2014 study showed that many women incarcerated in Brazil were not Brazilians but foreigners who were caught transporting drugs to and from the country. The study reported that 53% of the foreigners were from the Americas, 27% from Africa and 13% from Europe.

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