Australian arrested for alleged heroin smuggling in Cambodia after AFP tipoff

Ve Thi Tran arrested at Phnom Penh airport for allegedly trying to smuggle almost 2kg of heroin in her luggage

The Australian federal police is working with Cambodian authorities who have arrested an Australian woman at Phnom Penh international airport for allegedly trying to smuggle almost 2kg of heroin in her luggage.

Cambodia’s immigration department said on its official Facebook page that 1,814 grams of heroin were found embedded in the side of Ve Thi Tran’s suitcase in several different packages.

An immigration official at Phnom Penh airport, who declined to be named as he was not authorised to comment, said the 37-year-old was preparing to return to Australia via Hong Kong when she was arrested while checking in at the airport on Saturday.

The arrest followed a tipoff from the Australian federal police, which requested cooperation with Cambodia’s immigration department in making the arrest, the official said.

The AFP was criticised over its role in the Indonesian arrest of the so-called Bali Nine – a group of Australians arrested and convicted for attempting to smuggle heroin into Bali.

The AFP was aware of the smuggling plan before the individuals left Australia but chose to tip off Indonesian authorities instead of arresting them in the Australian jurisdiction.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed by firing squad in April 2015. The others remain in prison in Indonesia, six of them on life sentences.

A spokesman confirmed the AFP was working with Cambodian authorities on Tran’s case but said while inquiries were continuing no further comment would be made.

Tran is being questioned by Cambodia’s anti-transnational crimes squad.

Drug-smuggling offences are dealt with harshly by the Cambodian justice system. In 2016 an appeals court upheld a 23-year jail sentence for an Australian woman, Yoshe Ann Taylor.

Taylor, a 41-year-old former teacher from Queensland, and 19-year-old French woman Charlene Savarino were arrested in 2013 at Phnom Penh International Airport with 2.2kg of heroin in Taylor’s bag. The pair were preparing to fly to Australia.

Savarino was sentenced to 25 years in jail and a Nigerian man, Precious Chneme Nwoko, sentenced to 27 years. Taylor claimed she was tricked into carrying the drugs.

In May two foreign nationals were given life sentences for attempting to smuggling nearly 5kg into Cambodia, the Cambodia Daily reported.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it is aware an Australian woman has been detained in Phnom Penh.

“We stand ready to offer consular assistance in accordance with the consular services charter,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.


Helen Davidson with AAP

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