Jailed overseas: Most have drug raps

2012-03-19 22:36

Johannesburg -Two-thirds of the nearly 1 000 South Africans jailed abroad are locked up for drug crimes, the department of international relations and co-operation said on Monday, after a Durban headmistress was jailed in Britain on cocaine charges.

"Of 985 South Africans in custody in overseas prisons, 67% were arrested for drug-related offences," international relations and co-operation spokesperson Clayson Monyela told AFP.

The country has seen a series of high-profile drug mule cases, ranging from flight attendants on national airline South African Airways to the wife of the state security minister.

In the most recent case, 45-year-old Durban headmistress Annabella Momplé, a dual South African and Irish citizen, was sentenced last week in Britain to almost five years in prison for trying to smuggle cocaine worth £350 000 (R4.3m) through Heathrow airport.

She was stopped by border police during a routine check and a search of her rucksack revealed "a number of towels wrapped inside polythene bags", the British border agency said in a statement.

"The towels contained an equivalent of around 2.5kg of pure cocaine, with a street value of £350 000," it said.

In December last year a court in China executed a South African woman for drug smuggling, prompting a national outcry.

Other South Africans, mostly women, are languishing in jails in Thailand, Mauritius and Brazil.

In May last year Sheryl Cwele, the then-wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for drug trafficking after she was convicted of recruiting mules to bring in narcotics from Latin America. The couple has since divorced.

South African Airways in 2009 was forced to introduce tough anti-drug measures after 30 of its crew members were arrested for drug smuggling.

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