08 July 2014

Drug runner Lisa Marie Smith may be hiding in Dublin

Lisa Marie Smith is escorted by a police officer after her arrest in 1996.
Lisa Marie Smith is escorted by a police officer after her arrest in 1996.
THE one good thing about being named after Elvis Presley’s daughter and having the surname Smith is that it makes you harder to find if you also happen to be the “world’s most wanted woman”. 

That’s how Interpol extravagantly described Lisa Marie Smith after she checked out of the “Bangkok Hilton” in 1996 and vanished for the next 18 years.

There have been a few rumoured sightings since then, including one yarn that she was married and living in suburban Perth in 2001, but nothing as solid as the story that is unfolding here in Ireland.

The Perth story, from a shifty Australian who did time in Thai jails and claims Smith wrote to him, is now all the more intriguing because he claimed her married name was McGuigan, which has a distinctly Irish ring.

It’s intriguing because it is now emerging that the wanted woman may be hiding in plain sight in Dublin, running a trendy cafe in the capital of the easygoing country where another Australian fugitive, “Aussie Bob” Trimbole, hid in the mid-1980s.

Lisa Marie Smith after her arrest at Bangkok International Airport in February 1996.Lisa Marie Smith after her arrest at Bangkok International Airport in February 1996.
The Irish have little interest in extraditing accused persons to a jurisdiction like Thailand on 18-year-old charges that would attract little jail time in any Western country but could mean a life sentence — or a death sentence — in much of Asia.

It is inevitable the poor little rich kid will turn up one day. The wonder is that it hasn’t happened yet. She was barely out of her teens when she was arrested in Thailand with a middling amount of (probably) someone else’s drugs in early 1996. She’s now 38.

We’re talking about Lisa Marie Smith the accused drug mule, not another Lisa Marie Smith who happened to be born the same day in 1975 and who British police hauled in for fingerprinting a long while after her namesake went on the lam.

Not only was that Lisa Marie born the same day but she is also the same height (164cm) and weight (then around 60kg, which might have altered a little).

No wonder the police were confused. There are roughly 100 other Lisa Marie Smiths in the UK alone, all born in the era when Elvis was still king. But only one of them is wanted by Interpol.

Lisa Marie Smith leaves Bangkok criminal court after being granted bail.
Lisa Marie Smith leaves Bangkok criminal court after being granted bail.
The “world’s most wanted woman” was in fact raised an only child in Melbourne and Tasmania before moving to England as a teenager with her mother Robyn and British-born father Terry Smith, a rising insurance executive who chased promotions around the world.

For young Lisa Marie, it was a nomadic life that led to her having dual citizenship and dual passports.

In England she became, some say, just another spoiled teenager, doing a hospitality course, partying hard and waitressing in a dodgy Hong Kong bar after Terry Smith took a big job in the former colony in 1994, running National Mutual Life’s Asian business. While her father broke records in the insurance business, Lisa Marie broke the rules at Banana Joe’s bar and was sacked for smoking marijuana.

Terry Smith, the corporate gunslinger turned the insurance company around, made multi-millions for it and was handsomely paid. All those skills came in useful in February 1996 after Lisa Marie was grabbed at Bangkok Airport as she was about to board a flight to Japan with four kilograms of “opium resin” and 565 amphetamine tablets in a false-bottomed bag.

The frightened 20-year-old told Thai police (who had been tipped off) that she’d been conned into taking the bag as a favour for “Hassan”, a smooth Pakistani scammer who preyed on naive Western girls like her, holidaying in Bangkok’s freewheeling backpacker district.

Lisa Marie the trembling victim became Lisa Marie the cool fugitive after Terry Smith turned his formidable talents to the task of getting bail for her.

Despite the fact accused drug dealers in Thai jails usually don’t get bail, the rich man’s daughter did after less than five months in Bangkok’s notorious women’s prison.

One thing that made bail even conceivable was that the charges were reportedly (and mysteriously) downgraded from possessing opium resin to hashish.

Then an understanding magistrate set bail at $74,000, which Terry Smith promptly paid, and Lisa Marie apparently left Thailand on her Australian passport while Thai police were left holding her British one. Easy if you know how — or who.

By the time Thailand got around to alerting Interpol three months later, the bail jumper had been to Greece and taken the risk of picking up a new British passport at the embassy in Athens by filling in forms swearing the old one had been lost or stolen.

After a holiday on the Greek island of Santorini, reportedly to celebrate her 21st birthday, she disappeared.
That is, maybe, until now - as it has emerged she could have been tracked down to a fashionable cafe she reputedly runs with a boyfriend.

The smart money says that having got hold of a British passport, Lisa Marie would have been able to move around the European Union with little risk.

Whether she was able to obtain another legal passport when the 10-year time limit elapsed eight years ago is hard to know, but she doesn’t seem to have been troubled by officialdom.

Sources say her driver’s licence has both her correct name and date of birth.

The old crime saying goes “Money talks and bull---- walks”.

In this case it appears money talked and Lisa Marie Smith walked. And she didn’t even have to break into a sweat. That might have changed these last few days.

heraldsun.com.au 7 July 2014

Another illustration of how corrupt the authorities really are.

It's all about bribery and how much one can afford.

It's not really that different from Australia.

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