Embaixada do Reino dos Países Baixos em Brasília, Brasil

Drug smuggling

If you are caught with drugs abroad, the Dutch government can do nothing for you. You will be subject to the justice system of the country in which you have been caught. In most countries, possession of drugs is punished much more harshly than in the Netherlands. The conditions in many foreign prisons are very poor.

Do not become an unwitting drug smuggler
People are sometimes used without their knowledge to smuggle drugs. A drug dealer might hide drugs in your luggage at the airport, for instance, or someone you know vaguely might ask you to carry a parcel.

If you are caught with drugs in your luggage abroad, you will go to jail. Only if you can prove that you knew nothing about the drugs will you go unpunished. This is usually impossible, and people have to serve years in prison in the country where they were arrested.

You can avoid becoming an unwitting drug smuggler. Here are three tips:

• don’t leave your luggage unattended;
• get your luggage sealed at the airport;
• never take a parcel for another person without checking what’s inside.

Harsh penalties for drug possession abroad
In the Netherlands, the penalties for possessing or smuggling drugs are mild compared to other countries. If you transport drugs abroad, remember that the penalties can be severe. Examples of sentences for drug trafficking in other countries:
• possession of 800 grams of heroin in Venezuela led to 15 years in prison;
• possession of 619 grams of cocaine in the United Kingdom led to seven years in prison;
• possession of 2,900 ecstasy tablets in Romania led to 17 years in prison.

The courts in other countries do not usually take account of mitigating circumstances. They just look at the facts: the kind of drug possessed, the quantity, and the method of smuggling.

Conditions in foreign prisons are often very harsh. In Thailand, for instance, it is normal for a prisoner’s hands and legs to be shackled for the first few months. In other countries, up to 35 prisoners sometimes sleep in the same small cell. There is no hygiene and a great deal of violence:

• in most foreign countries, a person is considered guilty until the contrary is proved. In the case of drug smuggling, it is often difficult to prove that you knew nothing about the transport;
• the Dutch government can do nothing to ensure that you are released or receive better treatment.

If you are arrested abroad, the Dutch government cannot get you out of prison. You fall under the other country’s jurisdiction. It is not always possible to serve your sentence in the Netherlands.