Duped drug dealer lifts lid on prison romance with Michaella
MICHAELLA McCollum’s convict boyfriend today breaks his silence on their jailhouse romance to claim he bribed Peruvian authorities to allow the drug mule to walk free from prison – with cash from his international drugs business.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday World, Bosnian gangster Anthony Javier Hamidovic (below, 26), says he paid more than $60,000 (£50,000) to corrupt Peruvian security figures to allow McCollum to return to Ireland.
However, the criminal says he was left heartbroken when the 24-year-old turned her back on him as soon as she touched down in Ireland, because she wanted fame and fortune.
Speaking from his prison cell in Peru, the drugs boss, who was sentenced to 22 years for cartel activities, also makes a series of sensational claims about his former flame.
They include how:
- He showered McCollum with cash and expensive gifts;
- Paid for her to set up a beauty salon behind bars;
- Bribed officials to bring her to his prison cell;
- Set the former model up with an apartment, personal driver and bodyguard when she lived in Peru; and
- The couple planned to start a new life together as soon as he was freed.
Speaking this week, the criminal said: “I had feelings for Michaella, but she disappointed me and now I feel used and betrayed. All she wants is popularity, she wants to be a celebrity and I think she also wants to say her boyfriend is a gangster – but she will not use my name.
The Sunday World revealed last month how the Co. Tyrone drug mule (23), struck up a relationship with the criminal after she was jailed for trying to smuggle £1.5 million of cocaine out of Lima airport alongside Scottish girl Melissa Reid in 2013 (below).
In exclusive pictures, we revealed how the couple enjoyed secret prison trysts and sent each other lovesick messages over social media on smuggled phones. Hamidovic revealed how he pursued the former model after hearing about her case from a friend.
“I wrote a letter to her and she replied straight away,” he told the Sunday World.
“I was in Sarita Colonia prison in Lima and she was in another jail not far away. We were friends at the beginning, but things progressed. We started to see each other for emotional support.
“We would write letters weekly. Sometimes she would ask me to phone her family for her because sometimes her jail would have no electric and she could not use the phone.
“I would also send her money, clothes, food – normal things that I would do if I was on the outside looking after a friend.
“After my birthday in June 2014 she told me she wanted to open a beauty centre in Ancon prison, so I got her the money to open it.”
The 26 year-old said due to his power within the prison – where he has his own room, plasma TV and kitchen – he was able to bribe officials with cash he made from his drugs business to meet up with McCollum.
“I paid someone to go to her jail with false documents to say she needed to go to court. I only saw her for two hours the first time, but I arranged for another meeting at the court.
“Then a few months later I paid again, and we met at the hospital. It was a lot of money – $1,000 for each court [meeting] and $2,000 for the hospital [meeting].
“We got on well because I could tell she could feel my empathy. When I looked into her eyes I could tell that she was a tough girl trying to act cold, but she wasn’t cold. She was a normal girl who made a mistake.”
The pair fell head-over-heels for each other, with McCollum even planning a life with the Bosnian-born criminal outside of prison.
“I asked her, ‘do you want to go home or do you want to stay in Peru?’ And she said ‘no, I want to stay in Peru, I want to try with you’.
“But she did not want to be in that prison anymore. So I talked to my lawyers, I talked to the judge, we settled down and we put a price. I paid and she was released. It was very high – $50,000. I had to pay so much because she had not finished her sentence.
“She did not ask me to pay this, but she did say to me ‘Tony, if there is anything you can do to help me get out, then please do it’.
“She knew the money was from drugs, because I told her. I did not want to lie to her.”
Hamidovic – who allegedly runs his section of the prison, where he is ‘top dog’ – claims that as a result of this alleged payment, McCollum was released on parole in April 2016.
It was initially reported she would spend her time working as a missionary with a Peruvian priest in Lima. However, Hamidovic said that was not the case.
“She walked free and she moved in with her friend Kaouthar [Essafi] straight away. That only lasted three weeks because they had a falling out. She asked me to help her find an apartment and I did. I also got her a driver and a bodyguard. I was paying about $2,500 a month, which is a lot of money in Peru.”
McCollum spent her time eating out, partying and shopping in the posh Miraflores area of Lima, but continued to make weekly visits to see her boyfriend in his prison cell.
However, just weeks after being released their relationship was rocked by claims she had met someone else while on the outside.
“She denied it and I believed her,” he said.
“Then one of the weeks she came to the jail and asked me to help her get back home.
“I agreed, because at that stage I thought I was going to spending 22 years in prison, my sentence had not been reduced at this time.
“So I paid another $10,000 for them to deport Michaella back home. The last time I saw her was the same day she flew home to Ireland. She came here, we spent time in my room.
“I was sad when she left, I cried for like five days. That was the last of my money as well, which Michaella knew.
“She promised that she would repay me some of the money with media interviews, but then when she got back home she told me that her family did not want her to do anything with the media.”
Hamidovic says the relationship soured almost as soon as the drug mule returned to her Co. Tyrone home.
“Every day we were in contact. Then she changed her phone number and then I found out that she had ended up with that man in Peru. She admitted to it. It was over for me then. The only thing she had to do was go back home, find a normal job, lead a normal life – like I planned to do – and we would have a normal life together when I got out.
“But that’s not what she wants, she wants money and fame. And that made me sad because I believe I could have been good for her.
“I never meant to have a relationship with Michaella but unfortunately that’s what happened. I don’t regret it because even if it is f***ed up, everything happens for a reason.
“For that part of my life, being with her, it helped me to see life from another point of view. But she disappointed me. The gangster – who denies he is linked to a global child exploitation racket which saw his father and brothers arrested in Bosnia – says he hopes to be freed soon from prison after successfully appealing his sentence.
He says he plans to travel to Spain to live with his mother and start a “new life”.
“I don’t have to show anyone but my family that I am a changed man,” he said.
“Yes it is true, I was a drug dealer and I made lots of money but I did not use kids to make money. I am not a trafficker, that is a huge charge and I am not someone who uses kids to do work. All I want to do is start a new life and forget about the past.”