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The alleged recruiters of Mary Jane Veloso have admitted being part of a West African drug syndicate using mostly unknowing job-seekers as mules to carry illicit drugs across the region, state prosecutors said.

The detals of the involvement of Ma. Cristina Sergio and her live-in-partner Julius Lacanilao in the international syndicate are shown in the 18-page resolution by Assistant State Prosecutor Mark Roland Estepa, who on Thursday recommended the indictment of the pair – and no bail – for large-scale illegal recruitment.

Citing sleuthing done by the National Bureau of Investigation, the resolution revealed the alleged modus using illegal recruitment as a tool in trafficking in illegal drugs. It is apparently the same modus that the family of Veloso – whose execution was suspended at the last minute last April 29 but remains on Indonesia’s death row – claims had led to her arrest in Indonesia and eventual conviction in 2010 for drug smuggling.

The Estepa report based on the NBI sleuthing said Sergio aka Christine Pasadilla – long separated from her husband in Bicol – and Lacanilao have been working for the drug syndicate as early as 2010, transporting illegal drugs within Southeast Asia. They confessed their “involvement” after they gave themselves up to the Philippine National Police (PNP) last April 28, just hours before Veloso’s scheduled execution.

“Further investigation revealed that both respondents started working as drug couriers/mules sometime in the year 2010 for a West African drug syndicate cell based in Malaysia headed by a certain Samuel EzeKalu, alias ‘Sam,’ a Nigerian national residing at No. 1021, Metro Prima, Kepong, Malaysia,” said the DOJ resolution.

“Particularly, respondent Sergio narrated that the drug connections conducted by the international drug syndicate that she is connected with operated within and outside the Philippines, as she had several co-conspirators in Manila, Hong Kong and Malaysia. With respect to her connections in Manila, respondent Sergio narrated that her cohort was a certain Ms. Trina Quinones, who is the live-in partner of a certain Mr. Ivan Jairus, an African-American national. Both contacts reside in Quezon City, and were first met by respondent Sergio sometime in 2009,” it added.

Sergio also apparently admitted to the police her connection to the drug syndicate and said she was once offered to carry drugs from Hong Kong to the Ivory Coast in Africa in exchange for $5,000.

The resolution said Sergio also identified several of her contacts in Malaysia, giving their names as one Donna Uche from Africa, an alias “Kingsley” and an alias “White,” who are both African-American.

Sergio, the DOJ said, also identified a certain “John Smith, an African-American, who might be the “Prince” mentioned by Veloso in her affidavit.

In her affidavit, Veloso said the new traveling bag she packed her clothes in when she flew to Indonesia from Malaysia was given to her by a certain “Ike,” a man of African descent, who she added was introduced to her as a brother of Prince.

According to the resolution, Lacanilao went by the moniker “Supremo” in the illegal drug trade, adding that both he and Sergio “actively participated in the growing drug trade, and that their modus operandi was to recruit willing and/or unwilling participants in their activities.”

In an earlier ambush interview at the NBI custodial center where the pair are detained, Lacanilao told News5 he was a legitimate OFW when he went to the Middle East in 2009, and when asked what his work was, he replied, “flower arranger.”

“To be sure, respondents, along with their cohorts, are part of an existing network of drug traffickers that facilitate the entry and/or exit of illegal drugs in different countries… pursuant to their nefarious acts, respondents recruited and/or attempted to recruit the private complainants, using gainful employment abroad as the way to entice them,” the resolution further said.

(Photo by Marianne Bermudez from Inquirer, article from Interaksyon)

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