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drugs suitcase South African medicine student jailed for bringing crystal meth worth €180k into Ireland

The suitcase was x-rayed and found to contain approximately three kilograms of methamphetamine with a total value of €183,060.

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A South African medical student who imported over €180,000 of methamphetamine into the country has been jailed for two years.

Palesa Ntsulumbana (24) brought the drugs into the country from South Africa after being given a suitcase which she thought contained clothing.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that at the time of her arrest she was five months short of completing an undergraduate degree in medicine.

Ntsulumbana of Woodlands Place, Protorius Park, Protoria, South Africa, pleaded guilty to importing illegal drugs at Dublin Airport on December 13, 2020. She has no previous convictions in Ireland or in South Africa.

Garda John Perillo told Garrett McCormack BL, prosecuting, that on the date in question, Ntsulumbana had travelled to Dublin from South Africa via Dubai and was stopped by customs officers in the airport.

Gda Perillo said the accused woman was asked if the two piece of luggage she had were hers, and she replied that only one was and that a man had given her the other one.

She said an ex-boyfriend of her sister had given her the suitcase.

The suitcase was x-rayed and found to contain approximately three kilograms of methamphetamine with a total value of €183,060.

Ntsulumbana told gardaí that she had been offered the approximate equivalent of €2,000 to bring the suitcase to Dublin and that she thought it contained clothes.

She said she was also initially of the view that she was to keep under observation someone else who was carrying drugs.

She told gardaí her travel expense were also funded and that her mother resided in the UK.

She said she was a medical student who had five months left to complete her degree.

Gda Perillo agreed with James Dwyer SC, defending, that she knew the man who gave her the suitcase was somebody involved in drugs.

He agreed his client told gardaí she had never looked in the suitcase because it was locked.

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The garda agreed with counsel that his client appears to have been manipulated by this man and that she displayed some naivety.

Mr Dwyer said his client had nearly come to the end of her undergraduate studies and her ultimate aim was to specialise in cardiology.

Counsel said she has gotten on well in custody and has assisted in the medical facility there.

He said she has taken the opportunity to study calculus and biostatistics while in custody.

Mr Dwyer said that whatever her understanding of what was in the bag, she was certainly carrying out the role of a mule and was manipulated by other people.

Judge Melanie Greally said this was “an unusual set of circumstances” and that the accused woman was “undoubtedly” performing the role of a mule, “perhaps unwittingly”.

The judge said Ntsulumbana was not somebody who has lacked opportunity in her life and had “a very bright future” in front of her in the medical field.

She said this conviction with be a “considerable impediment” to her in pursuing that career at least in the short term.

Judge Greally sentenced Ntsulumbana to four years imprisonment, but suspended the final two years of the sentence on strict conditions including that she leaves the country within 14 days of her release from custody and not return for 20 years.

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