Drug smuggler jailed in Thailand

March 24, 2004
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A man from Greater Manchester who smuggled 3,400 ecstasy tablets into Thailand has been jailed for 99 years.

Michael Connell, 19, from Bury, escaped the death penalty at a Thai court on Wednesday, by pleading guilty.

Connell, 19, was arrested at Bangkok’s international airport on 10 November 2003 with the pills hidden in facial cream jars.

Defence lawyer Prutti Kuranon said Connell planned to appeal against the life sentence.

Connell’s father, Derek Connell said he was “absolutely devastated”.

He said the family had hoped for a sentence of 25 years and planned to appeal against the 99-year life term.

He said: “We were told the 99 years would be reduced to 50, if he pleaded guilty and maybe to 25 because of his young age.

“But that didn’t happen. He pleaded guilty and they hit him with the full 99 years.

“I’m absolutely devastated but what can we do? We will appeal the decision and just take it from there.”

Mr Connell, a 48-year-old taxi driver, has visited his son once in Thailand, but was not present for the sentencing.

He said his son writes letters home which describe conditions at Khlong Prem Prison in Lard Yao, Bangkok, as “bad”.

‘Horrendous’ conditions

He added: “When I visited the jail they take you to the bit they want you to see, which has plants and little ponds with koi carp in them.

“But everyone knows it is a different story in the actual jail.

“People who have seen the conditions say they are horrendous.”

Mr Connell, who lives in Bury, believes his son smuggled the drugs to pay off a small debt.

X-ray scan

He said: “From what I can gather, he got into a bit of debt, probably just a few hundred pounds, and he was persuaded to smuggle the tablets to pay it off.

“He was naive and he has learning difficulties, so he was the perfect target for drug dealers who need someone to do their dirty work.”

Customs officials found the ecstasy tablets in Connell’s travel bag after they were detected by an X-ray scan at the airport.

The pills had a street value of $85,000 according to the Thai customs department.

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