Colombian model faces death penalty in China for drug smuggling

Juliana Lopez, 22, is now facing the death penalty after being caught with what Chinese authorities claim was a large quantity of drugs in her laptop Photo: Daily Mail

A 22-year-old Colombian model is facing the death penalty after she was caught with a plastic bag full of drugs hidden inside her laptop.
 
Juliana Lopez seemed to have the world at her feet, running a trendy boutique and hosting a television show, as well as being a well-known professional football player.
 
And winning the Miss Antioquia beauty pageant, she was going to participate in the Miss World Medellin competition this week but her family suddenly lost contact with her while she was in China to purchase items for her shop.

Lopez was going to participate in the Miss World Medellin competition this week but her family suddenly lost contact with her while she was in China to purchase items for her shop Photo: Daily Mail

Lopez pictured smiling in China in her Facebook profile picture on her first visit to the country last year Photo: Daily Mail

Worried about her whereabouts, her family contacted the Colombian embassy saying that she had vanished. She had apparently flown into the airport in the city of Guangzhou, in the southeast Chinese province of Canton, after which they lost contact with her.
 
Chinese officials confirmed to the family she had been arrested for drug smuggling. It was not specified what kind of narcotics were inside her laptop but police say they found a large quantity of a banned substance.

Lopez plays for the women's team Divas del Futbol in Medellin. She is also a student at the University of San Buenaventura, in the city of Bello, in the north central Colombian district of Antioquia.
 
Carrying drugs in China is not only banned, but can carry the death penalty and relatives and friends are now desperately trying to collect money to get top lawyers and a team sent over to defend Lopez. They also want family and friends to travel over to support her.

Lopez plays for the women's team Divas del Futbol in Medellin. She is also a student at the University of San Buenaventura, in the city of Bello, in the north central Colombian district of Antioquia
Photo: Daily Mail

The smiling profile picture of the model's Facebook page was taken on her first visit to China last year, and she has since been back to buy goods for her business.
 
Alejandro Duque is the coach of Divas del Futbol. He said: 'Juliana was the central point of the group, she spoke a lot with the press and she gave her face to the team.'
 
About the drug charges he added: 'She is a good girl, student, model, contestant of beauty contests, and she has always been an athlete.'
 
He said he had last seen her two weeks ago shortly before she travelled to China to buy shoes, clothes and other accessories.
 
Duque said: 'My heart tells me that she is not guilty, she is a fighter. She cannot be sentenced yet, I have hope that she is innocent and that everything can be sorted out.'

Relatives and friends are now desperately trying to collect money to get top lawyers and a team sent over to defend Lopez Photo: Daily Mail

According to the newspaper El Tiempo, the Colombian Foreign Ministry has provided legal assistance and support to Lopez and her family through her mother, Nubia Sarrazola.
 
A spokesman for the ministry said: 'We work to ensure the preservation of the rights of private individuals and the right to a proper defence and the presumption of innocence, as well as respect for due process and the preservation of her personal integrity and her health.'
 
But the Chinese police investigation could take between six months and two years and the amount of contact the model will be allowed with her family is likely to be limited.
 
Currently, there are 138 Colombian prisoners in China's jails for a range of offences and 12 of them have been sentenced to death. Nine of these cases have been frozen thanks to the efforts of the Colombian government. Another group of 11 has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
 
Of those detained, 90 per cent were linked with drugs-related crimes and the rest were related to prostitution.
 
China executes the highest number of people of any country annually and is believed to put to death more than the rest of the world put together, according to Amnesty International.


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