A 68-YEAR-OLD beekeeper from New Zealand who unwittingly brought cocaine into Australia has been found not guilty of drug trafficking in a WA court.
Roy Stuart Arbon flew from Brazil via Dubai to Perth in February last year and was found at the airport with 2.5kg of 79 per cent-pure cocaine hidden in the lining of a suitcase that was given to him.
The court heard the cocaine found in the suitcase at Perth Airport was estimated to be worth between A$700,000 and A$1.4 million.
Arbon went on trial in the WA Supreme Court this week and breathed a sigh of relief on Friday when he was acquitted of importing a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug after eight hours of jury deliberations.
Arbon showed no reaction after the verdict was read out, but after Justice Joseph McGrath left the courtroom, he smiled and let out a deep breath, ABC News reported.
When asked how he was feeling, he replied “great”.
When asked whether he thought he’d be found not guilty, he said “yes” before being taken away by security guards.
Even though Arbon was acquitted, he is due to be deported to New Zealand as his visa was cancelled when he arrived in Australia.
Outside the court, Arbon’s lawyer Sarah Oliver said he wanted to go home anyway.
“He wanted to thank the jury, and also the court and all the staff and all the people of Australia that have been so supportive of him, and the Legal Aid system for helping him with his defence in this matter,” she said.
In her opening address, Oliver said her client was a good, innocent man who had previously fallen victim to online scams.
These had forced him to sell his organic honey business, so he sought a loan from a Nigerian man named “Doctor William Johnson”, who had approached him via the internet, to revive the cottage enterprise.
Oliver said Arbon, who was previously a New Zealand Land Search and Rescue volunteer, was told the people he was dealing with represented international banks or finance organisations and he didn’t know they were involved in drug trafficking.
He had originally planned to go from Brazil, where he said he visited friends, to India, where he intended to sign loan documents.
But he was turned back at the airport because he didn’t have a yellow fever certificate and instead flew to Perth, intending to return to his New Zealand home near Greymouth via Sydney.
The court heard a neuropsychologist engaged by Oliver had diagnosed Arbon with a cognitive impairment.
It also heard Customs officials in New Zealand noticed his complicated travel plans and warned him he could be asked to do something illegal.
New Zealand Herald – Top Stories