Teen caught bringing €20,000 of hallucinogenic plant into airport

By Brion Hoban

An Israeli teenager who was caught bringing nearly €20,000 worth of an hallucinogenic plant into Dublin airport has received a fully suspended sentence.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Ruth Ben Haim (19) had the plant “khat” in her bags when she was stopped after arriving on a flight from Finland. The plant acts as an hallucinogenic when the leaves are chewed and is legal in Israel in the plant form.

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Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

Ben Haim from Tel Aviv, Israel, and with an address here at Rathfarnham Road, Terenure,  Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of drugs for sale or supply at Dublin Airport, on September 10, 2019.

Garda Tanya Shinkins told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that on that date, Ben Haim arrived in Dublin on a flight from Helsinki, having originally travelled from Israel.

Gda Shinkins said that when stopped after landing in the airport, Ben Haim said she had not packed her bags but whatever was in her suitcases was “not anything serious”. A search of her luggage and those of another girl on the same flight led to the discovery of the plant material.

The court heard that khat is widely used in north east African countries such as Somalia. It is a controlled substance here but in Israel it is legal in the plant form which Ben Haim had.

The total estimated street value of the material found in Ben Haim’s possession was €19,911.

A similar amount of the drug was found in possession of the other girl. The court heard that because she was aged under 18 at the time she was dealt with by the Garda Juvenile Liaison and returned to Israel without charge.

Ben Haim spent a week in custody following her arrest but was released on bail and, since then, she has resided with a rabbi in the capital. She has no previous convictions in this jurisdiction or in her home country.

Garda Shinkins agreed with Miceál O’Connor BL, defending, that his client was asked to carry the suitcases into the country and was to hand them over to a person in Dublin.

Mr O’Connor said his client came from an orthodox family, but she herself was not orthodox and became “detached” from her family when she was aged 16. He said she apologised for the offence.

Judge Martin Nolan said the accused was very young at the time and that the young “are sometimes easily put upon”. He said she was offered a reward and succumbed to temptation.

Judge Nolan sentenced Ben Haim to one year imprisonment, but suspended the sentence in full on condition that she keep the peace and be of good behaviour for one year.

At her bail hearing last September Rabbi Zalman Lent told Dublin District Court that both women came from upstanding families and Ms Haim’s father was the head of a rabbinical institute.

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