December 6, 2005
Two Australians, including a 15-year-old boy, changed their pleas to guilty in
a Hong Kong court on Tuesday, about eight months after they were arrested for allegedly
trying to smuggle heroin to Australia.
Hutchinson Tran, an unemployed 21-year-old,
and Chris Ha Vo, a 15-year-old fast food worker, reversed their original not guilty pleas
when they appeared at Hong Kong's High Court.
A third defendant, 17-year-old hairstylist
Rachel Ann Diaz, was not in court and was not expected to change her plea, said prosecutor
The three Australians - all from Sydney - were arrested on April 12 with 701
grams of heroin.
In court on Tuesday, Tran said he had arranged for the two others to act as
"mules" who had been expected to swallow 114 heroin-packed condoms and smuggle them from Hong Kong
The drugs would be worth about HK$325,000 ($A53,320) on the street in Australia,
Tran faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if convicted of drug trafficking.
It remains unclear what penalties the two minors, Diaz and Vo, might face.
three's trial is to begin on April 3 before a seven-member jury.
Police have said Tran
is accused of being part of an Asian criminal gang who allegedly arranged the drug shipment.
Prosecutors have previously said the teenagers had been recruited with offers of $A200 for each packet of heroin they swallowed before flying home.
According to prosecution sources, Diaz changed her mind and refused to swallow the drugs moments before narcotics officers burst into their Hong Kong hotel room in the downmarket Tsim Tsa Tsui tourist area.
They have been held in custody ever since.