Drug mule jailed for six years

A Brazilian drug mule who stood to gain just over $20,000 for his illegal smuggling has been jailed for six years.

Joao Batista Da Silveira, 39, was busted by customs officials at Auckland Airport in the early hours of March 7 with 2.35kg of cocaine in the lining of his luggage.

His haul had an estimated street value of between $705,000 and $3.5 million.

Da Silveira admitted one charge each of importing a class A drug and possessing it for supply.

Both charges have a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, but in the High Court at Auckland today Justice Graham Lang started his sentencing calculations at 12 years' jail and then gave Da Silveira a 50 per cent discount for his guilty pleas and immediate acceptance of responsibility.

Da Silveira will be deported after serving two years of his sentence.

He told authorities he had received about $2000 in expenses for attempting to smuggle the drugs.

"When you returned to South America you expected to receive approximately $20,000 for carrying the cocaine into the country," Justice Lang told Da Silveira, who was assisted by a Portuguese interpreter.

Da Silveira told a pre-sentence report writer he agreed to become a mule because he had financial difficulties at home and needed money to pay off debt.

"It's clear, however, that you were not to make any additional profit from the importation of the cocaine. Your role was restricted to that of a mule or courier whose sole task was bringing the drugs into New Zealand."

Three other men arrested in connection with the smuggling have appeared in court in Christchurch.

- By Jimmy Ellingham of APNZ

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