Nine held in Bali heroin bust
By Matthew Moore in Denpasar, Cynthia Banham and Richard Macey - April 19, 2005

The alleged leader of a group of nine Australians arrested for attempting to smuggle nearly 11 kilograms of heroin to Sydney proclaimed his innocence yesterday as he was taken to his police cell in Bali.

"Whatever happened to Schapelle Corby happened to me," said the Sydney man, identified only as CA, after police had interrogated him and eight others.

Corby is in jail in Denpasar charged with attempting to smuggle 4.1 kilograms of marijuana into Bali, but has insisted from the outset the drugs were planted in her bag.

Police say they arrested CA, from Enfield, while he was reading a newspaper on board a flight just about to leave for Sydney.

Four other Australians arrested at the airport in a joint Australian Federal Police and Indonesian police operation allegedly had drugs totalling 10.9 kilograms. Indonesian police said it was high quality heroin worth up to $4 million.

CA was the only one arrested to show his face, although several others were heard sobbing under the shirts over their heads as they walked to their cells, including the only woman. "Tell 'em I love 'em," CA said when asked if he had anything to say to his family. "Tell my girlfriend I love her, too."

Police say they plan to use the same law against the nine that is being used to prosecute Corby.

The father of one man arrested in Bali said last night he had no idea his son had left Australia. The distraught parent said he had reported his 20-year-old son missing to Blacktown police on Sunday, two weeks after he left their Doonside home and never returned.

"I didn't see him for two weeks. I never knew he was overseas," said the father, identified only as Mr Chen. He first thought his son was staying with friends. "I am very surprised to hear this news." He added that his son had never been to Bali before. Asked if his son had ever been involved with drugs, he replied: "No, no. Never."

Mr Chen said he had no idea what to do and did not know who to call to help his son. "I am very hurt," said Mr Chen, adding that his son had listed a friend, not him, as the person to contact.

Indonesian police spokesman Colonel Antonius Reniban said officers arrested the nine on Sunday under law 22, of 1997, which carries the death penalty or a maximum of life imprisonment and fine of $133,000.

Police held a media conference where they displayed the seized drugs and showed how the suspects had allegedly worn them in bundles wrapped in plastic and hidden under athletic bandages wrapped with medical tape.

Colonel Reniban said the suspects had poured pepper on the drugs to make them more difficult for dogs to detect.

A federal police spokeswoman said the arrests were the result of a 10-week investigation.

Indonesian police had kept watch on the group as they allegedly prepared to smuggle the drugs out of Bali.

The federal police spokeswoman said the four allegedly carrying the drugs included two men from Brisbane, both aged 19, a man from Sydney, 29, and a woman from Sydney, 27. A fifth person - a man from Sydney, 21 - was also arrested at the airport. Soon after, four other men were taken into custody at a Bali hotel - one from Brisbane, 27, and three from Sydney, 18, 20 and 24.

The federal police's border and international network manager, Mike Phelan, said officers had been investigating the case since February, "working up intelligence and providing it to the Indonesians".

"The information we've got at this stage is that the syndicate travelled over to Bali and it was their intention to bring back heroin that had obviously been manufactured in South-East Asia - not in Indonesia," he said.

The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, said the Australians were being given consular assistance. All nine were being held at a police station and if charged would be transferred to a prison in Bali.

Aussies arrested over Bali heroin haul

Apr 18, 2005

At least eight Australians have been arrested in Bali over a 10.9kg heroin haul.

Bali's Anti-drug squad director Bambang Sugiarto said the group was in custody after a tip off helped officers break up what he described as a drug syndicate.

He said nine Australians had been detained, but the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) earlier said only eight Australians had been arrested for attempting to smuggle drugs out of Bali.

"We consider them one group working together as a syndicate," Sugiarto told AAP.

Sugiarto said the police operation, sparked by a tip off, had netted 10.9kg of heroin.

He said that was the gross weight of the haul. It was not known how pure the drug was.

Drug smuggling attracts the death penalty in Indonesia.

"This is a result of work by our intelligence officers in cooperation with anti-drug officers based at the airport," Sugiarto said.

The police operation ended early this morning.

Earlier, a DFAT spokeswoman said its information was that eight Australians had been arrested - five at Bali's Denpasar airport and three later at their hotel.

"We're aware that eight Australians - seven males and a female - have been detained for attempting to export a quantity of drugs," the DFAT spokeswoman said.

"The quantity and type of drugs will be determined by chemical analysis."

Australian Federal Police said the four arrested at Bali's main airport each had 2kg of heroin strapped to their bodies.

A fifth man was also arrested at the airport, and four other men were later taken into custody at a Bali hotel.

The DFAT spokeswoman said officers from the Australian consulate in Bali would seek access to the Australians, and would offer them consular assistance.

Meanwhile this latest drug bust in Bali would not threaten slowly improving diplomatic relations between Australia and Indonesia, Indonesia's chief foreign affairs spokesman Marty Natalegawa said.

"This is clearly an issue of drugs and drug smuggling. There is no doubt that - Indonesians and Australians - we are all against that," he said.

Natalegawa said the arrested Australians should receive proper consular assistance and a fair trial.

"The Australian government through its embassy in Jakarta has the opportunity to give necessary protection for their nationals without intervening (in the case)," he said.

Natalegawa said lobbying by the Australian government on behalf of accused drug smuggler Schapelle Corby had not crossed the line diplomatically and had not amounted to interference in Indonesia's judicial system.

"They haven't been doing that. They have been very correct," he said.

Australians 'will face firing squad if convicted'
It's a nightmare that is all too hauntingly familiar - Australians allegedly found with drugs at Bali airport now face the prospect of Indonesia's crowded death row and execution by firing squad.

Nine Australians - eight men and one woman - were arrested in Bali, allegedly with more than 11 kilograms of heroin, during an airport drug swoop and follow-up hotel raid.

The bust - thought to be biggest ever involving Australians in Indonesia - came just days before Indonesian prosecutors are to announce the sentence they think Gold Coast woman Schapelle Corby should get if she is found guilty of marijuana importation.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock is also expected in Indonesia later in the week to discuss Corby's case as well as legal ties between the two countries.

Justice Minister Chris Ellison has only just left Jakarta after a lobbying effort on Corby's behalf.

But while Corby looks set to avoid the death penalty amid a public outcry that she was an innocent victim of drug gangs, the latest wave of arrests will be viewed far more seriously by Indonesian authorities because it involves heroin.

"If found guilty, death penalty," the head of the Bali police anti-drugs squad Colonel Bambang Sugiarto told AAP.

Only last year Jakarta executed two Thais and an Indian for drug offences in the 1990s.

Thais Saelow Prasert, 59, and Namsong Sirilak, 32, were shot by a firing squad last October for importing 12.1 kilograms of heroin.

Indian national Ayodhya Prasad Chaubey was executed on August 5, 2004, making him the first person executed in Indonesia since 2001.

Indonesia has increasingly become not only a transit route, but also a market for drug traffickers.

Its courts have passed a dozen death sentences against foreigners found guilty of drug offences in recent years.

At least 56 people are believed to be on death row, including Seck Osmane, 29, from Senegal, who was sentenced last year for carrying 2.4 kilograms of heroin.

There are also at least three Indonesians, two Nigerians, a Nepali and a Melawi man.

Amnesty International has warned the trials for the two Thais and Chaubey might not have been fair because they did not have access to legal representation before facing court or have access to interpreters during the police investigation.

Clemency requests were rejected by then-president Megawati Soekarnoputri.

But Indonesia is also considering a proposal to commute death sentences to life imprisonment in cases where a prisoner has not been executed within five years of being convicted.

"I personally don't agree with the death sentence because everybody has the right to live and that is a right that cannot be abrogated," lawyer and human rights activist Hendardi told The Jakarta Post last week.

He said that the proposal, made by Supreme Court Chief Justice Bagir Manan last week, reflected progress in Indonesia's legal system.

The system allows the execution of a criminal on death row to be delayed indefinitely.

Hendardi said most executions in Indonesia were of murderers or people convicted of drug-related crimes.

Staring death in the face
By CINDY WOCKNER - April 19, 2005

NINE young people from NSW and Queensland were in a Bali jail last night facing the death penalty, after being arrested in Indonesia with $4 million worth of heroin.

One of the accused told The Daily Telegraph he had a message for his family: "Tell them I love them. Tell my girlfriend I love her too. Whatever happened to Schapelle Corby happened to me."

Local police swooped after a tip-off from Australian Federal Police, who had been tracking the group since February.

There were six suspects from NSW and three from Queensland, all aged between 18 and 29. Drugs police seized three men and a woman as they prepared to board an Australian Airlines jet for Sydney at 7.30pm on Sunday local time.

A fifth man, who police described as the "godfather", was arrested as he sat on the plane reading a newspaper. He had no drugs on him.

The others had the drugs packed into elastic waistbands and covered with tape. It had also been laced with pepper to throw drug detection dogs off the scent.

One man had 3.3kg of drugs on his body, another 2.4kg, another man who said he worked as a labourer had 2.5kg and the woman was carrying 2.7kg.

Police said all were wearing baggy clothes to conceal the bulky drugs.

Minutes after the airport arrests, police swooped on the Melasti Hotel in the Balinese tourist capital of Kuta. Four more men were arrested and 350g of heroin was discovered, along with scales, a suitcase filled with packing tape and drugs paraphernalia.

Local police reports had the arrested people as a 27-year-old woman from Newcastle, a 29-year-old man from Wollongong, a 24-year-old man from Auburn, a 21-year-old man from Enfield, a 20-year-old man from Doonside and a male, 18, from Quakers Hill.

Two 19-year-old men and a 21-year-old man, all from Brisbane, were also arrested. All were led from the police station to jail cells with shirts over their heads.

"They're convicting me of something I didn't do," one of the men told The Daily Telegraph.

Earlier, they had sat looking shellshocked in the police station as they were interrogated.

Indonesian anti-drugs chief Lieutenant Colonel Bambang Sugiarto said all had confessed they were "couriers" but had refused to name who they were working for.

He said: "The men, in preliminary investigations, have confessed to being couriers but have so far refusing to elaborate on who they were working for.

"We have followed them for a long time, for a month, and seen suspicious gatherings."

He said heroin had a street value in Bali of 1 million rupiah or $140 a gram. That would make the Indonesian street value of the haul the equivalent of $1.6 million in Indonesia but as much as $4 million on the streets of Sydney.

If convicted of drug smuggling, they face the death penalty by firing squad under Indonesia's unforgiving anti-drugs policy.

Lt-Col Sugiarto told The Daily Telegraph: "Local police, acting in co-operation with Australian Federal Police, have been watching the group since they arrived in Bali on April 6 on a flight from Sydney."

The group had been due to fly back on April 14 but changed their flights to depart three days later.

Police had yet to discover the origin of the drugs.

He said he was unsure whether the drugs had been manufactered in Indonesia or whether Bali had been a staging point.

Accused drug-runners face more questions
Nine Australians will face further interrogation in Bali after being accused of trying smuggle more than 11kg of heroin into Australia.

Family members of the nine were expected to start arriving on the Indonesia island from today, after four of the accused were detained at Bali airport on Sunday, allegedly with heroin strapped to their bodies.

A fifth person also was arrested at the airport, and later four others were taken into custody during a hotel raid where sandwich-sized blocks of heroin were allegedly found.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he was shocked by the arrests.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) said they could not allow the alleged drug runners to make it back to Australia with the haul just to avoid a possible death sentence in Indonesia.

The nine could face a firing squad if convicted of drug smuggling under Indonesian law. As yet no charges have been be laid.

The Australian newspaper named the alleged mastermind of the group as Andrew Chan, 21, of Enfield in Sydney.

Mr Chan was pulled off a Sydney bound Australian Airlines flight at Bali's main airport in Denpasar.

"What ever happened to Schapelle Corby happened to me. They are convicting me of something I didn't do," he told reporters in Bali.

The newspaper also named the four who allegedly had heroin strapped to their bodies as Michael William Czugaj and Scott Anthony Rush, both 19 from Brisbane, Martin Eric Stephen, 29, from Towradgi near Wollongong, south of Sydney, and Renae Lawrence, 27, from Wallsend in Newcastle.

The Australian named the other four arrested in the hotel raid as Tach Duc Thanh Nguyen, 27, from Brisbane, Myuran Sukumaran, 24, from Auburn in Sydney, Si Yi Chen, 20, from Doonside in Sydney, and Matthew James Norman, 18, from Quakers Hill in Sydney.

Mr Downer said the AFP could not allow the group to return to Australia before arresting them because the alleged offences were committed in Indonesia, and the Indonesian police had to be involved.

"For nine people to be arrested - certainly in my nine years as the foreign minister there has never been a situation like that before," he told the Nine Network.

"A sillier thing for people to do (allegedly) I just cannot imagine.

"People have to know though that trafficking in heroin and trafficking in drugs brings the death penalty in many countries, particularly in Asia.

"If people don't understand that, they certainly will now."

AFP border and international network national manager Mike Phelan said Australian agents had been gathering information about the group for about 10 weeks, and handed it to Indonesian police two weeks ago.

But he said it was not up to Australia to decide where the group was arrested.

"I know that you were saying that should we let the drugs come here - that's not a decision for us," he told the Seven Network.

"When we're involved in international cooperation, these offences have occurred in another jurisdiction and it's very much the domain of the law enforcement authorities in that jurisdiction as to what action they take."

"This is the way it happens, this is the way the AFP has been working for many years."

Mr Phelan said the young age of the Australians was particularly concerning.

"The ages of these alleged traffickers is very young ... that's something that does concern us and it concerns a lot of people ... ," he told the Nine Network.

"Whether these particular alleged couriers are first-timers or not is a matter that's subject to further investigation."

Mr Phelan said AFP officers also had exercised search warrants on home in Sydney and Brisbane and had seized documents, but no drugs were found and no arrests had been made.

Mr Downer said Australia would always appeal for clemency in any situation where an Australian faced the death penalty.

Just Monday, he had met with Vietnam's vice-minister for foreign affairs and had pleaded for clemency for an Australian convicted of drug trafficking in that country.

Drug accused's family 'distraught'
THE family of an Australian woman arrested in Bali for allegedly trying to smuggle heroin is struggling to absorb the news.

The stepfather of 27-year-old Renae Lawrence, from Wallsend in Newcastle, today said he and his wife were stunned by news of the arrest.

Media reports have named Ms Lawrence as one of four Australians allegedly caught with heroin strapped to their bodies at Bali's Denpasar airport on Sunday.

It is alleged Ms Lawrence and the three men with her were about to board a flight to Sydney.

Five other Australian men were also arrested in Bali - one at the airport, and four during a raid on a Bali hotel where sandwich-sized blocks of heroin were allegedly found.

No charges have yet been laid.

Ms Lawrence's stepfather, identified only as Steve, today said he had spoken briefly to Renae by phone, but was cut off.

"I am still actually struggling to even absorb what has happened," he said on ABC radio.

He said he had not been contacted by Australian police, but had been notified by consular officials.

"I am at a loss how these things get out so quickly. How do they know." he said.

"There's nothing that we know as yet.

"I am going to have to go. My wife is too distraught."

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All information is Copyright 1997 - 2006 'Foreign Prisoner Support Service' unless stated otherwise - Click here for the legal stuff