A Mumbai actress who came to the UAE for an audition in a "Hollywood series" has been detained for allegedly smuggling drugs into the country.
Chrisann Pereira, 27, has been held in Sharjah Central Jail for carrying a plaque into the country in which drugs were concealed.
Her lawyer in Dubai, Mohammad Al Redha, told The National the case was with Sharjah prosecutors and a laboratory report on the drugs was due.
“We are waiting for the report from the criminal laboratory to identify the drugs and the weight,” Mr Al Redha said.
The Indian consulate in Dubai confirmed Pereira had been imprisoned in Sharjah for alleged drug smuggling.
“A consular official has met Ms Pereira in jail in Sharjah. Her mother came to Dubai for two days and met us at the consulate,” an official said.
“We are in touch with the family and will help in any way possible.”
Sharjah Police have been contacted for comment.
The Bollywood actress has acted in Hindi-language action thrillers such as Batla House and Sadak 2.
She arrived in Sharjah on April 1 and was detained by police at the airport, her family and lawyer said.
Pereira’s family in India said she travelled for an audition she was told was being shot in Dubai.
They said she was duped into carrying the trophy by two men and had no knowledge of the hidden drugs.
The men who allegedly posed as talent scouts were arrested by police in Mumbai on Tuesday under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act after a complaint filed by Pereira’s family.
Penalty for drug possession
Possession of drugs is a felony in the UAE and the charges vary depending on the severity of the crime.
The penalty for personal possession and personal use of less than 20 grams is a fine or jail. Punishment for possession of up to 100g can be 10 years imprisonment and a fine of Dh100,000 ($27,230).
Possession of more than 100g would be considered drug trafficking and could result in a life sentence and a fine of at least Dh500,000.
Foreigners convicted of drug-related offences can be deported after serving a prison sentence.
The actress's mother Premila Pereira said the family aimed to clear her daughter’s name.
She said she introduced her daughter to a man from a talent management company last month, who spoke of a series being shot in Dubai.
He sent Pereira an air ticket, hotel booking and shortly before the flight asked her to carry the "trophy" to be handed over to someone she would meet in Sharjah.
“My daughter would not have taken a parcel, she knows better than that. But he told her about the trophy very casually and gave it to her just before the flight, so she put it in her bag,” Ms Pereira told The National from her home in Mumbai’s Borivali suburb.
“At Sharjah Airport when there was no one to meet her, she was worried and called home for help.”
She then told them about the trophy and sent a photograph.
Her family advised her to report what had happened to the police.
She was subsequently arrested by the airport police, her lawyer and family said.
“It was not my daughter’s intention to take drugs, she has been framed,” Ms Pereira said.
“We understand the police in Sharjah is doing its duty but we hope they will look at the case in India against the men who have duped her and other people.”
Arrests in Mumbai
Mumbai Police have arrested Rajesh Borate and Anthony Paul, suspected of fooling Pereira and at least four others into smuggling drugs into the UAE by offering them roles in a “Hollywood web series being shot in Dubai”.
Police officials said an investigation indicated the men had used similar methods to deceive others.
“Just before she took the flight, she was given a golden-coloured trophy that she was asked to carry as a memento,” Mumbai Police said in a statement.
“Sharjah Police arrested her at the airport because there were narcotic substances in the trophy.”
Mr Al Redha said police would check surveillance cameras to confirm his client’s position that she came forward to inform authorities about the "suspicious package" she had been given.
“My client had passed immigration at the airport and was waiting for someone to take the trophy,” he said.
“But when she called her mother, they felt there was something wrong and her family advised her to take it to the police.
“So the police will examine the cameras that will show that she went to the police and customs.”
He has forwarded information about the arrests in India to Sharjah prosecutors.
“We will submit all information from the cases in India to the prosecution and ask for bail for my client," he said.