A Wellington woman has been handed a four-year, 10-month jail sentence in Argentina after being found guilty of drug smuggling.
Sharon Armstrong, 54, was arrested at the airport in Buenos Aires on April 13, 2011, after 5 kilograms of cocaine was discovered in the false bottom of her suitcase.
Armstrong is the former deputy chief executive of the Maori Language Commission. She had been working as a contractor for Maori education and language company Haemata, based in Wellington, since February.
She had picked up the parcel in Argentina while on the way to meet her internet boyfriend in London.
Armstrong denied knowing the cocaine was in her bag and says she was duped into carrying it.
I’m unsure as to whether or not Armstrong was criminally stupid, or just a criminal.
It is hard to imagine a degree of stupidity where you agree to carry a parcel given to you in Argentina, to someone you have never met. But people do sometimes suspend all common sense when they are in love.
But the reality is that regardless of motivation, Armstrong almost inevitably had to be found guilty. You can’t let drug smugglers off just because they say they didn’t know what was in the package. It is your responsibility to check, or at least to be able to say whose package it is.
Hopefully this will be a lesson for others. Never take stuff for others over borders, unless you totally trust the person you are doing it for. And never trust someone you have yet to meet!