African woman says she was ‘fooled’ by pal

Posted on October 2, 2011

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NBI-7 Regional Director Edward Villarta (right) shows a foil packs of shabu in the suitcase of Kenyan passenger Asha Atieno Ogutu at a press conference. (CDN PHOTO/ JUNJIE MENDOZA)

Any sense of calm that 24-year-old Asha Atieno Ogutu first showed after her arrest for possession of three kilos of shabu was lost in a torrent of tears when she was presented to the Lapu-Lapu City Prosecutor’s Office yesterday.

The Kenyan national, a single mother of two, denied knowing that her suitcase concealed drugs.

She said the luggage was given to her by an acquaintance who replaced her backpack after telling her she didn’t look good wearing it.

She said she arrived in Cebu with plans for an all-expenses-paid holiday arranged by a friend called “Rey.”

The shabu has a street value of about P18 million, according to Arnel Pura, special investigator of the National Bureau of Investigation in Central Visayas (NBI-7).

“Vacation? I don’t think so. She is a typical drug mule,” said NBI-7 Assistant Director Lauro Reyes of the woman as a courier of illegal drugs.

“If we had the death penalty in the country, she would surely be a candidate. She’s lucky the penalty is gone.”

Ogutu was arrested by NBI-7 agents upon her arrival at the Mactan Cebu International Airport from Doha, Qatar, on board Qatar Airways Flight 656 at 4 p.m. last Thursday.

A complaint was filed against her yesterday for transporting illegal drugs even as NBI said the shabu, contained in two foil packs concealed in the lining of a checked-in trolley bag, were intended for another destination.

The offense is nonbailable.

The Kenyan tourist will be detained in the Lapu-Lapu City jail pending trial.

Ogutu broke down crying, saying her family didn’t know yet about her arrest. She said she was a trader of fruits and clothes in her hometown in Kenya.

She had no lawyer to assist her during the inquest proceedings. Two prosecutors briefed her of her rights.

Section 5 of the Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 prohibits the “sale, trade, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution, and transportation” of illegal drugs. A conviction would mean life imprisonment and a fine of P500,000 to P10 million.

Ogutu said a Kenyan woman, whom she identified as Rey, recruited her for a clothing business.

She said Rey, whom she knew for just a month, asked her to go to Benin, a country in West Africa. In Benin, she was asked to go to Cebu for a vacation.

Oguto said she was supposed to stay for a week at the EGI Hotel in Lapu-Lapu City for a holiday paid for by Rey.

As she prepared to leave for the Philippines, Ogutu said a certain Joshua told her she didn’t look good wearing a backpack bag and replaced it with a suitcase.

NBI-7 Regional Director Edward Villarta said Cebu was used as transshipment point for illegal drugs.

“Based on the information we got, the seized items were not intended for Cebu. We have a followup investigation,” said Villarta during a press conference.

The NBI-7 Manila office earlier alerted agents in Cebu about the suspected female courier.

Ogutu was held at the arrival area while three trained dogs sniffed her luggage. The dogs circled the bag, prompting the NBI agents to open her suitcase and find two packs of shabu wedged in a false bottom of the bag. /By Ador Vincent Mayol and Edison delos Angeles with Correspondent Chito Aragon

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