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Smuggling

Kildare man's privacy was not violated when he signed for cocaine addressed to fake diplomat

The package was sent to “Tony Tuto, Honorary Consul of the Republic of South Africa”.

A KILDARE MAN is set to go on trial for cocaine possession after the Court of Criminal Appeal ruled his constitutional rights were not violated because the package of cocaine he is alleged to have signed for was sent to a different name.

Ibrahim Lawel was charged in 2011 with accepting a package containing €1.75 million worth of cocaine at in Athy, Co. Kildare.

The cocaine was addressed to the fictional, “Tony Tuto, Honorary Consul of the Republic of South Africa, of 50 Marina Court, Athy, Co. Kildare”.

The package was purported to have been sent by the South African Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela.

It is said that when the package arrived at the Fedex Depot at Dublin Airport it was examined and x-rayed by customs officials. They then took a sample from the package and determined that it contained cocaine.

The package was then handed over to gardaí who initiated a operation delivering it to the address in Athy five days later.

When the package arrived at Marina Court, Ibrahim Lawel signed for it under the name Tony Tuto. Lawel says he was asked to sign for the package as a favour for a friend.

The package was later removed from the house in Marina Court by another man.

At a hearing in Naas Circuit Criminal Court in 2012, the court found that the interception, detention and seizure of the drugs was unlawful.

It found that basis with which the customs officer detained the package was based on a law that related to warehoused goods and not imported goods.

The trial judge ruled that Lawel had proprietary rights over the package and that he was therefore entitled to invoke constitutional rights of privacy.

The Court of Criminal Appeal was asked by the Director of Public Proseuctions to examine a series of questions relating to the case.

The court highlighted that, “the focus of the appeal was not as to whether the search was illegal…rather whether the evidence obtained was in contravention of his right to privacy”.

The judges found that, in this case, Lawel’s constitutional right to privacy did not arise because he signed for the item with the fictitious name that was marked on the package.

“It follows therefore that it was not a situation either where the evidence would be rendered inadmissible.”

The Court of Criminal Appeal did not find that the Circuit Court judge was wrong to find that the detention of the package was illegal. Rather that, in determining if the evidence was admissible, finding there was a breach of constitutional rights was an error.

The case is due to appear before Naas District Coourt again on 18 November.

Read: Court of Criminal Appeal says eight year sentence for firearms offence was ‘excessive’ >

Opinion: Would stricter guidelines for trial judges encourage more consistent sentencing? >

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