An Australian woman was sentenced to 23 years in prison in Cambodia for attempting to smuggle heroin from Phnom Penh into her native country. Yoshe Ann Taylor, 41, was arrested, along with French teenager Charlene Savarino, who was sentenced to 25 years.
The two women, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, were carrying 2.2 kilograms of heroin in their backpacks. They claimed they belonged to Savarino’s boyfriend, Nigerian citizen Precious Cheme Nwoko. Nwoko, whom the court ruled was the mastermind of the drug smuggling operation, received a 27-year sentence. He denied that the drugs in their backpacks were his or that he was involved in the operation at all.
Judge Kor Vandy sentenced the three on the specific crime of “cross-border smuggling of illegal drugs.” While the court did not elaborate on how Taylor became associated with the couple, police Brigadier General Hay Seila said in a press conference after the arrest that “the French woman and the Nigerian man both organised and packed the drugs in Phnom Penh for the Australian woman to come and take them back to Australia.” Australian law enforcement tipped Cambodia off to the potential drug deal, prompting the arrest.
Southeast Asia has become a popular location for those wishing to smuggle drugs into Australia. Also this week, an Australian man was arrested in Indonesia for possession of a variety of illegal drugs. Fifty-three-year-old Andrew Roger was arrested at a cafe for rolling a marijuana cigarette; authorities found marijuana, crystal methamphetamine, ketamine, ecstasy pills, and Happy-5 pills (nimetazepam) in his apartment, which he admitted were his and for personal use only. Roger faces 20 years in prison for his crime.
Australian police also cracked down last year on a wide-scale syndicate operating across Asia to smuggle drugs. The gang traded particularly in heroin and methamphetamine, and operated in China, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Myanmar. Police, who appeared optimistic that the crackdown would significantly reduce the availability of methamphetamine in Australia, found 42 kilograms of combined drugs and $4.2 million in cash at the group’s base.
In addition to traditional illegal drugs, Australian authorities arrested two individuals, 63 and 70 years of age, for smuggling euthanasia drugs into the country. The pair was allegedly part of the pro-euthanasia group Exit International, against which Australian police have been increasingly aggressive. In 2013, ABC Australia reported that euthanasia activists had become increasingly bold in smuggling the drug, known as the “peaceful pill,” from China and other parts of the world into Australia.