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Two women plead guilty in Peru drug smuggling case

By CNN Staff
September 25, 2013 -- Updated 1240 GMT (2040 HKT)
Defendants Michaella McCollum, left, and Melissa Reid walk into court in Callao, Peru, on Tuesday.
Defendants Michaella McCollum, left, and Melissa Reid walk into court in Callao, Peru, on Tuesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Attorney for Michaella McCollum say she accepted drug trafficking charges in Peru
  • Sentencing for McCollum and another woman set for next week
  • Fellow defendant Melissa Reid also pleaded guilty, court says
  • The two women arrested as they tried to board a flight carrying 25 pounds of cocaine

(CNN) -- An Irish woman and a Scottish woman accused of trying to smuggle 25 pounds of cocaine from Peru to Europe pleaded guilty to the charges, the court handling the case said.

Michaella McCollum, 20, from Ireland, was arrested alongside Melissa Reid, 19, from Scotland, by Peruvian national police at Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima on August 6.

They were stopped as they tried to board an Air Europa flight from Lima to Madrid after authorities found 11.59 kilograms (25.5 pounds) of cocaine in their luggage, hidden inside food packets. Their final destination was Palma de Mallorca in Spain.

When they were arrested, the two women told police they had been coerced into carrying the cocaine.

British women accused of smuggling drugs

But the law firm representing McCollum said in a statement Wednesday that the investigating judge had interviewed her at Sarita Colonia prison in Lima and that she had accepted the charges.

Sentencing in the case is due Tuesday.

Lawyer Peter Madden said, "I intend to travel to Lima next week to attend the sentencing hearing, and after the sentence is handed down by the judge, it will be possible (to) make further comment."

Reid also pleaded guilty to the charges, according to a statement from the court.

The pair said they regretted their actions and have cooperated with investigators by elaborating on their role and the contacts who coordinated the smuggling attempt, the statement said.

"I feel very bad for the pain this has caused my family," Reid said, according to the statement. "I assume full responsibility."

The women's sentences could range from eight to 15 years in prison, the court said.

Since their arrests, the women have received consular assistance from their home government, a UK Foreign Office spokesman said.

There is a prisoner transfer agreement between Peru and the United Kingdom, which means that individuals can apply to serve their sentence back in their home country, the spokesman said.

Peru is the world's top cultivator of coca, the plant whose leaves are used to produce cocaine. It overtook Colombia for the dubious honor.

CNN's Laura Smith-Spark, Rafael Romo and Claudia Rebaza, and journalist Peter Taggart contributed to this report.

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