HK court sentences Pinay to 23 years for drug trafficking

By Carina Roncesvalles, The Philippine Star

Posted at Oct 12 2012 03:16 AM | Updated as of Oct 12 2012 09:57 PM

HONG KONG – A 52-year-old Filipino woman was sentenced here yesterday to 23 years imprisonment for bringing in one kilo of heroin in November last year.

A seven-man jury unanimously found Elsa Herico guilty of trafficking dangerous drugs after a six-day trial.

Court of First Instance Judge J. Line imposed a 21-year imprisonment for the quantity of drugs, and added two years for the importation element or carrying drugs from overseas.

Herico pleaded not guilty to the criminal charge, claiming she did not know that the luggage given to her by a man she met in Kuala Lumpur concealed illegal drugs.

She was arrested on Nov. 9 last year after Customs officers discovered a sealed compartment in her luggage containing a package of 2.36 kilos of drug mixture, including 1.07 kilos of heroin.

Prosecutor John Hemmings said the seized drug mixture had a street value of HK$1.8 million.

“It is not in dispute that she is in possession of the suitcase. What is in dispute was that whether she knew that she was carrying drugs, regardless of type and value,” Hemmings said.

In a video of Herico’s interview with authorities, she said an empty black suitcase was given to her by a man she met in a convenience store for her to use as a shopping bag.

“The weight of 2.36 kilograms is a substantial weight in a suitcase itself, other than the items placed inside. Heroin constitutes a very significant weight of the suitcase as a whole,” Hemmings said.

Herico also had a smaller blue suitcase, a handbag and a plastic bag.

Hemmings said Herico’s blue suitcase was enough to carry her personal items in the black suitcase and the plastic bag.

“It is common sense that I would only take a suitcase to another country from someone whom I knew well and can trust. On her account, she only knew the man from a couple of months back and didn’t have his phone number or address,” he said.

Four Filipino tourists were earlier sentenced to jail terms this year for drug trafficking.

Last Aug. 30, the Court of First Instance sentenced Bernard Garcia to 30 years in jail. He was found guilty of bringing in 19.67 kilos of drug mixture, including 7.95 kilos of heroin and 1.05 kilo of morphine in July last year.

Lolito Balila was sentenced to 21 years imprisonment. He was arrested in August last year for carrying more than 25 kilos of illegal drugs, including more than 10 kilos of heroin and almost two kilos of morphine.