March 22, 2005
A Brisbane man convicted of trying to smuggle medical
drugs from Bali to Darwin could be back in Australia by
the end of this week after an Indonesian court today sentenced him to six months' jail.
He has already served that amount of time at Bali's notorious Kerobokan prison.
Christopher Currall, 37, was arrested last September and accused of trying to send 54,645 tablets of ephedrine and a commercial quantity of it in powder form.
The stash was found hidden inside water bottles placed in a large flower pot.
Ephedrine is used in cold tablets but it is also the main ingredient of methamphetamine, also known as speed.
Indonesian police caught him at a cargo company's office in Kuta trying to send the parcel back to Raymond Larry Thomsen, whom Currall said was a business associate.
Thomsen, 29, was arrested in Darwin last year in a joint sting after allegedly paying an undercover Australian Federal Police officer to import ephedrine tablets.
But Currall denied trying to send ephedrine home, saying he was duped by an Indonesian man he met in Bali who was now wanted by authorities.
Describing ephedrine as potentially dangerous, Judge I Gusti Lanang Dauh said there was insufficient evidence to convict Currall of distribution because Thomsen could not be called as a witness.
The three judges found him guilty of possessing a commercial quantity of drugs and practising as a pharmacist without an Indonesian health authority licence.
He was sentenced to six months in jail plus a fine of three million rupiah, or $406, less than the 10 months prosecutors asked for.
The judge said Currall had been polite during the trial, had no prior convictions and had family responsibilities in Australia.
"The accused has no licence and owned a large amount of ephedrine, and also has no authority to ground the tablets into powder," the judge told Denpasar District Court.
The sentence was far lighter than the 15 years Currall could have received and means the seafood importer could leave jail tomorrow and be back in Australia by week's end.
He was charged under health laws rather than tough anti-narcotics laws that carry the death penalty, because ephedrine is available in small quantities over the counter in Indonesia.
His lawyers said Currall would pay the fine and be transferred to an Indonesian immigration detention centre until his passport was returned and he could be deported to Australia.
"All I can say is that people have looked after me very well," said Currall after embracing his lawyers and being led back to a holding cell.
"I was expecting maybe 12 months, so I couldn't be happier."
Currall said he had been afraid of a heavier punishment because of the international attention on the case of fellow Australian Schapelle Corby, who is on trial for her life after being caught with 4.1 kilograms of marijuana at Bali airport last October.
He said upon returning to Australia, he planned to go to his parents' house in western Sydney, where two of his children were staying, and later to see his fiancee and other two children in Brisbane.
Currall did not expect any problems getting back into Australia because he said he had not done anything wrong under Australian law.
"I have already served my time here," he said. "Nothing was ever sent to Australia. They haven't got a leg to stand on."
He said he would continue travelling to Bali to source seafood for his business in Australia.