Woman In Her 80s Accused Of Cocaine Trafficking in Beirut

By Victoria Kim 12/28/17

The accused octogenarian drug smuggler was reportedly in possession of 68 pounds of cocaine.

elderly woman walking alone with cane and suitcase with wheels going into the darkness

Unsuspecting drug mule or seasoned drug smuggler? A woman in her 80s was arrested at Beirut’s international airport last Friday (Dec 22) for allegedly trying to sneak about 68 pounds of cocaine past customs officials. 

According to Lebanon’s National News Agency, customs officials at Rafik Hariri International Airport discovered the cocaine “hidden within the luggage of an elderly Venezuelan passenger who is about 80 years old, coming from Venezuela to Beirut via Paris.” 

Two others, airport security officers, were also arrested “apparently for trying to escort the woman through customs.”

The country’s finance minister, Ali Hassan Khalil, claimed authorities had busted Lebanon’s “largest cocaine smuggling operation,” and that the government is “strict and in no way lenient” toward drug traffickers.

Lebanon, a small country that shares borders with Syria and Israel, is indeed punitive in its approach to even the smallest drug offenses. 

According to a Talking Drugs report from October 2016, authorities arrest and prosecute thousands of Lebanese per year for drug use. This spurred a Beirut-based organization called Skoun, which offers free drug treatment to people in need, to launch a Know Your Rights campaign in September of 2016.

The campaign seeks to educate people on drug laws and empower them to push back on abusive practices. “You have rights on the streets, in police stations and in courts, even if the charge is drug use,” say the young people in a video promoting the campaign.  

According to Skoun’s advocacy coordinator, Sandy Mteirek, young people between the ages of 18 and 30 account for “over 50%” of drug arrests. 

According to the Talking Drugs report, the Lebanese government has a law on the books, Law 673, that gives people who use drugs the option to enter a treatment program in lieu of jail time, but it has reportedly “proved insufficient in preventing the criminalization of people who use drugs, particularly young people.”

The accused octogenarian drug smuggler is now at the mercy of Lebanese authorities. 

In the past, drug traffickers over a certain age have been found to have been duped into transporting drugs without knowing it. One example is Joseph Bryon Martin, a 78-year-old retired pastor-turned-drug mule from Dresden, Maine, who was tricked by a woman he’d fallen in love with on the Internet into transporting 1.4 kilograms of cocaine from Peru to the UK. 

But before he could make it to his destination, Martin was apprehended by authorities in Spain and sentenced to six years in prison for his drug haul. He was released after a year.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr