Sat, Feb 21, 2009 - Page 6 News List

British couple arrested in Venezuela on drugs charge

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

A British couple could lose custody of four young children and spend years in a Venezuelan jail after allegedly trying to smuggle three suitcases full of cocaine to Britain.

Paul and Laura Makin from Birkenhead, northwest England, were arrested at the airport of Isla Margarita, a resort island off Venezuela’s Caribbean coast, after allegedly packing 23.7kg of the drug worth an estimated US$1.7 million into their luggage.

Their children, two-year-old twins and a boy and girl aged seven and eight, have been taken into care by Venezuelan social services and are expected to return to Britain later this week.

Narcotics officials from the national guard at Santiago Marino airport in Porlamar, Margarita’s capital, intercepted the family on Monday as they prepared to board a charter flight to London-Gatwick airport. The six had been on a package holiday with tour firm First Choice.

After a brief court hearing the couple were remanded in custody on suspicion of drug trafficking. They are expected to reappear in court in several weeks to be formally charged.

Merseyside police said on Thursday that Paul Makin, 31, had been due to attend Liverpool crown court on Feb. 9 on charges of affray and possession of an offensive weapon. When he did not attend court a judge issued a warrant for his arrest. It is alleged he threatened a man with a machete last September.

The couple are the parents of two-year-old twins. Laura, 31, has children aged seven and eight from a previous relationship. The father of the two is understood to be among relatives who have flown to Margarita to repatriate all four children.

Speaking from her home in Moreton, Merseyside, Paul Makin’s mother, Chris, said: “I am in the dark. I am just interested in getting the children back in the country. The press seem to know a damn sight more than me. The [UK’s] Foreign Office are not speaking to me and the police are not speaking to me either. Regarding Paul and Laura, I know nothing about them. I’m really close to the kids — they spend weekends at my house.”

His grandmother Margaret added: “I am just so shocked and this has shattered me. I knew he was going on holiday, but the first I heard about this was when a relative rang this morning. I couldn’t believe it. I have no idea what’s going on and if it is a mistake.”

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