Chinese prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for an Australian jockey who allegedly tried to smuggle more than 3kg of crystal methamphetamine into Australia.
Anthony Roger Bannister, 43, from Adelaide, was stopped at Guangzhou airport from boarding a flight to Sydney on March 11 last year, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Customs officers detected the drugs, also known as ice, in envelopes stuffed in ladies' handbags in his luggage.
Bannister has told a court in Guangzhou he was unaware the drugs were in his luggage and claims he is the unwitting mule in an elaborate smuggling scam perpetrated by three men he identified as "Justin", "KC" and "John Law".
"I do believe that I have been set up," Bannister told the court in a trial which was held in October but which has only just come to light.
"They've used me as a mule."
Bannister said the 3 men had convinced him he could obtain a lucrative divorce settlement from his ex-wife, a Filipino woman he met while living in Japan, but first a series of documents needed to be signed in person in Guangzhou, resulting in him travelling to the city 5 times in the space of 4 months, usually only for a few days at a time.
Prosecutors said Mr Bannister's account was "conflicting and illogical" and that he chose to smuggle drugs because he was unemployed and had no income.
The prosecutors recommended the death penalty, to be carried out promptly.
Bannister's fate will be decided by 3 Chinese judges presiding over his case, who are yet to reach a verdict.
The accused man's older brother James said his younger brother, who had learning difficulties growing up and dropped out of school after year 9 to take up an apprenticeship as a jockey in Mount Gambier, was naive and trusting enough to fall for such a scam.
At least 10 Australians have been charged in China in the past year with serious drug offences that can attract the death penalty.
Most if not all these cases involve the trafficking of ice from Guangzhou, in China's south, which has become a hub for the ice trade to Australia because of its international transport links and ready availability of precursor chemicals
Source: 9news.com.au, April 12, 2015
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