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article imageDefending drug-traffickers, money-launderers and shoplifters

By Igor I. Solar     Apr 23, 2013 in Business
Santiago - Criminal lawyer Helhue Sukni enjoys an excellent reputation among her clients who recommend her without hesitation. Among her usual clientele are some of Chile’s most infamous drug traffickers and serious offenders. Now she’s delving in show business.
Helhue Sukni, 47, earned her law degree in 1995. Her persona is far from the formal image of the criminal defense lawyer one sees on TV shows. She sports a flowing, blond mane; heavy make-up, very showy outfits, often a miniskirt, and usually wears several million pesos worth of gold necklaces, bracelets and rings to which she adds some glittery rhinestone bracelets ("for color", she explains). She has a friendly and carefree attitude, broadcasting winks, hugs and kisses in abundance.
Sukni is known as the lawyer with the largest number of criminal cases in Chile. She conducts the defense of about 300 men and women prisoners or being prosecuted in Santiago and neighboring cities. About 60 percent of her clients are drug dealers; others are scammers, money-launderers and shoplifters. She personally conducts all her cases attending about eight court audiences every day. In the evenings, she visits and consults with scores of clients in jail detention.
Helhue Sukni taking care of business on behalf of her clients  reviews papers while taking a call at...
Helhue Sukni taking care of business on behalf of her clients, reviews papers while taking a call at an improvised "office" outside the court.
Chilean drug legislation, unlike other countries where drug use is punishable by imprisonment and/or fines, does not prohibit personal and private consumption of drugs. Furthermore, this must be one of the few laws, perhaps the only one, in which the defendant must prove his innocence, instead of the prosecution having to prove the offense of which he is accused.
In recent years, drug cases have almost tripled. This has greatly increased the demand for lawyers able to prove the "innocence" of the accused; to convince the judge that the possession of drugs was for medical treatment or for immediate personal consumption; that the prosecution made an error or abuse of power; that evidence or an alleged confession was the result of coercion, unlawful search or forceful arrest; or “in the worst scenario”, against incontestable evidence, being able to get the shortest conviction possible.
Lawyers representing drug traffickers typically charge hefty fees that are proportional to the quantity of drugs involved in the case. Legal defense for a few grams of cocaine can cost the equivalent of about US$ 5,000; a mobster, member of a criminal organization, charged with possession of about 20 kilos, should be prepared to invest at least US$ 50,000 in legal fees. Typically, half of the fee is paid at the beginning of the trial, and the other half on completion of the process. Regularly, the second half is noncollectable because offenders sentenced to long prison terms make no effort to pay the lawyer.
Helhue has argued, in many cases with some success, on behalf of some of the most prominent Chilean drug traffickers, fraudsters and shoplifters. Among her "highlight” clients have been “Las Rubias” (“The Blond Girls”), a group of three infamous recurring department-store shoplifters; the leaders of the drug gang known as "Los Gaete"; two defendants belonging to the drug-dealing gang so-called “Los Care’ Jarro” ("the Jug-Faced ones"); several mobsters of the group known as "The Ciprianos", and a Calabria Mafia leader called Francesco Bandi who, according to CiperChile (in Spanish), was shipping Bolivian cocaine to Europe via the Santiago airport. However, one of her most famous cases was the defense of a large family group known as “Los Fina Sangre” (The Thoroughbreds), so nicknamed for laundering drug money through trading in racehorses.
Helhue Sukni  criminal lawyer  in her office in downtown Santiago.
Helhue Sukni, criminal lawyer, in her office in downtown Santiago.
Because of her participation in these notorious cases, Helhue usually appears delivering statements in the press and television. She is a well-known face not only within the criminal circles but also among TV viewers addicted to sensationalism and tabloid-type of journalism. Recently, a TV channel specializing in celebrity gossip, “junk food news” and astrology, offered Helhue a space in a morning show where she will discuss legal issues and sensational crime stories.
Helhue has vowed that show business will not distract her from her main vocation: defending the criminals that trust and need her. "One is born in life for something, and I was born to be a lawyer, not a television entertainer. I'll never abandon my people" Helhue said in an interview with Glamorama (in Spanish).
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