Natasha Bita, Florence -
September 08, 2005
AN Australian man who allegedly posed as a policeman to smuggle 10kg of pure cocaine through Italy faces up to 20 years in jail.
The man, 30, variously described as a Queenslander and Sydneysider, was named by Italian authorities yesterday as Fuc Iang Lay. Mr Lay is in jail awaiting trial after being arrested by Italian police at Rome airport on August 15 and charged with drug trafficking.
"Reports of him being a policeman are incorrect," an Australian embassy official in Rome said yesterday.
"He may well have been pretending to be a policeman.
"He has an Australian passport. Consular officers are providing assistance to the man and his family in Australia."
Italy's finance police described Lay yesterday as a "security agent from Sydney".
An Italian court official yesterday said Mr Lay had been born in "East Timor, Australia".
A court hearing has not yet been set for Mr Lay, who met Australian consular officials in a prison outside Rome on Tuesday and is due to meet Portuguese diplomats today.
Italy's paramilitary financial police yesterday issued a press release describing the man as a "narco-policeman".
The 10kg of cocaine allegedly hidden in the man's suitcase could have been transformed into 50kg of street cocaine with a value of E5 million ($8.1 million), they said.
"Of Portuguese origin, the young man had just arrived from (the Venezuelan capital) Caracas and was preparing to depart on a plane for Istanbul," police said.
"Stopped along the transit corridor, he responded confidently, without betraying any sign of agitation. But a check of his baggage revealed 10kg of cocaine ingeniously concealed in a false bottom. The drug was practically pure, and could have resulted in 50kg of street cocaine with a market value of E5 million."
A spokeswoman for the Australian Federal Police said earlier Mr Lay was not a former or serving AFP officer.