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City of Banjul
Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Austrian drug mule’s trip to meet lover in Gambia ends with imprisonment

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Michael Bortoli, 47, was arrested in September 2013, at the Adelaide airport in Australia when custom officers X-rayed his luggage and found the drugs hidden in plastic bags. 

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The court heard that although the Austrian at first denied any knowledge of the illicit drugs, he later confessed the crime. He said he was advised by a man connected with his girlfriend in The Gambia.

The district court judge, Rauf Soulio, in delivering his judgement on Monday, said: “You were selected for a baggage examination and your suitcase was X-rayed. A customs officer asked whether there was anything in the bag and you replied ‘I go to jail now’. Your airline tickets were purchased by an unidentified person through a travel agent in Spain and your application for a tourist visa was processed by the same means. 

“An examination of your telephone revealed an exchange of SMS messages of a romantic nature with another participant, a woman who was apparently residing in The Gambia. You said your girlfriend Lisa lives in The Gambia and you had met her in a chat room. You had never been to The Gambia. You planned to use the money you were paid or to be paid for engaging in this crime in order to travel to meet Lisa. You had formed what appears to an unrealistic expectation arising from the communications with her, and you were led to believe that communication might lead to a relationship. 

“I accept that… you were manipulated into being involved in this crime as a result of a combination of your loneliness and your expectations about that relationship. I accept that you were not the person who was going to substantially profit from the crime and that you were a mere courier or, as your counsel described it, a mule.”

The judge however said that could not be an excuse and sentenced him to eight years in imprisonment. 

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