May 08, 2015 (6:31 am)
AN ACCUSED drug trafficker claims he travelled to China to collect what he thought was muscle-building supplements and didn’t check the packages before trying to depart.
Authorities have charged Peter Gardner, a dual Australian-New Zealand national, with trying to smuggle more than 30.2 kilograms of methamphetamine out of China, which carries a possible death penalty.
His lawyer, Zhang Jie, said Gardner, was tricked into being an accomplice in a smuggling scheme, and that he had never touched any of the methamphetamines that were seized by customs officials at Guangzhou Baiyun airport on November 8.
Gardner, who faces the death penalty, begged a Chinese court for mercy at the end of a lightning one-day trial. He said he thought the packages — which he claimed not to have opened — contained performance enhancing peptides, not $18m worth of meth.
At the end of the trial, he said he “accepted the facts” admitting to the court he had done something wrong and had attempted to move “objects” but said he was not guilty of trafficking ice.
“I’m really sorry, I really regret it ... I have broken the law and there’s no getting out of it,” he said.
Both Gardner and his Chinese lawyers pleaded with the three judges to take into account “his good attitude” and his willingness to co-operate with police to identify drug kingpins in China and Australia.
His verdict will be announced “on another” unspecified day the judges said.
Gardner almost escaped from China in November last year but stayed to save his travelling companion, Australian Kalynda Davis, in whose names the bags were checked into the China Southern flight to Sydney, after she was stopped by customs officials at the airport.
He said he was about to board the plane to Australia by himself but turned himself in to officials in order to save her.
He said his confession to customs officials in Guangzhou was designed to save Ms Davis.
Gardner said he had only invited Davis, who he recently met through an online dating site, to China to entertain her since she was in ‘low mood’ in that period.
He said he believed the objects in the boxes were “health products to reduce fat and enhance muscle.”
‘THERE’S NO GETTING OUT OF IT’
Recounting the day of his arrest, Gardner said he was instructed by an Australian named “James” to go to the Hilton Hotel in Guangzhou to meet two Chinese men.
He claimed he did the delivery for “James” free.
“I’m really sorry, I really regret it ... I have broken the law and there’s no getting out of it,” he said, weeping.
His parents and sister were also in the court and his mother and sister also shed tears during the morning proceeding.
It was revealed that it was the second time Gardner had flow to Guangzhou in juts three months, naming a previous trip — in which he admitted he had carried packages back — in September 2014. He claimed he paid $13,000 for the peptides.
But prosecutors hit back at Gardner saying that DNA tests showed there was a high likelihood that he had checked inside the bags. They also queried why someone would fly thousands of miles and pay more than $10,000 but not check the contents of a bag.
Gardner told the Guangzhou Intermediate Court this morning that he and Davis were due to take a flight back to Australia on November 8 last year.
After being handed the drugs, Gardner said he was assured the packages containing what he thought were steroids would be cleared by baggage handlers at Sydney airport.
In surprise live broadcast from the court Mr Gardner, 25, was heard testifying off-screen that he had made “a really big mistake” and brought “a big shame” to his family.
Gardner appeared in the Guangzhou Intermediate Court hair shaved and handcuffed in a light grey suit and opened necked white shirt. His parents were in the courtroom.
Gardner also told the court would be willing to cooperate in identifying Chinese drug traffickers in Guangzhou which has emerged as one of the regions major drug trafficking hubs — and is now the subject of a concerted crackdown by Chinese authorities.
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Australian man Peter Gardner faces Chinese court over alleged ice trafficking