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A 22-year-old Colombian model hoping to take part in the Miss World beauty contest in China has been sentenced to a 15-year jail term after a Chinese court found her guilty of smuggling drugs into the country, a media report said Tuesday.
Juliana Lopez Sarrazola, who could have faced the death penalty or a life sentence, will also be expelled from China after completing her jail term, the People’s Intermediate Court of Guangzhou in Guangdong province ruled Monday.
Sarrazola was caught trying to smuggle 610 grams of cocaine hidden inside a laptop at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport during a visit to China on July 18 last year, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted local media reports as saying.
Sarrazola, the winner of the Miss Antioquia beauty contest in Colombia, had been hoping to win the Miss World Colombia contest in July and then compete in the Miss World 2015 finals in Sanya, China, last December.
News that she had gone missing in China and could face the death penalty after being caught with drugs last July sparked huge media interest around the world.
“I wanted to attend the Miss World beauty contest in 2015,” Sarrazola, who admitted smuggling drugs, reportedly told the court.
“It takes quite some money to pay for the travel and hotels,” she was quoted as saying by the Post.
Sarrazola had reportedly needed to borrow money from a man identified in court with the name, Sergio, who would give her USD 2,500 only if she agreed to help him smuggle the drugs.
Sarrazola could have faced the death penalty or been sentenced to life imprisonment because of the quantity of drugs she had been carrying, the court said in its verdict.
Her lawyer told the court that Sergio threatened to kill Sarrazola’s family if she did not obey his instructions.
The lawyer quoted phone messages sent to her in court as evidence in a plea for leniency.
The lawyer also argued that the money she was to have received after transporting the drugs was only a tiny portion of their value, which indicated she had only a marginal role in the drug smuggling, the report said.