- The Straits Times
A Chinese woman is going on trial on drug trafficking charges that could carry the death penalty next month in Malaysia, according to a newspaper report.
Zhao Han, 27, from Sichuan province, was arrested at Kuala Lumpur airport in August 2015 carrying a suitcase that was allegedly filled with 3.3 kilograms (7lb) of methamphetamine in a hidden layer of the suitcase, Beijing News reported.
Zhao insists she is innocent and says she was duped into carrying what she thought was a suitcase full of clothes that she had collected in the southern province of Guangdong before catching a flight from Hong Kong.
She also took police to the place where the case was to be delivered, but the contact had apparently received a tip-off and had disappeared.
Statistics quoted in the report from the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) said that more than 20 Chinese women have been arrested or convicted for bringing drugs into Malaysia between 2013 and 2015 – all of whom claimed to have been duped by a smuggling ring operating in Guangdong.
Several women – all aged between 20 and 24 years old with limited education – said they had been asked to deliver a suitcase of clothing samples that they collected in Guangzhou city by a man they met online.
The man claimed to be from Nigeria and promised a romantic relationship with them.
The man, who said he ran a clothing export business, provided air tickets and promised some financial reward, but cut off contact after their arrests, according to the report. None of the women met the man in person and had collected the case from a proxy.
Three of the woman have been sentenced to death and are currently appealing. The report also cited the case of another woman who had pleaded guilty to avoid a death sentence and was jailed for 14 years. Those that plead not guilty can face a protracted six to 10-year legal process before the case is resolved.
There have been no reported arrests in connection with the drug ring since 2015.
The families of several women said they had contacted Chinese police to try to prove their daughters’ innocence but they had no follow-up.
The newspaper reported one family that said they had given the police photos and telephone numbers of their daughters’ contacts three years ago but had heard nothing since.
However, lawyers involved in the cases said evidence collected in China was not necessarily admissible in Malaysian courts and warned that unless the women could prove they had been deceived it would not help their defences.
Beijing News quoted Guangzhou customs as saying they wanted to strengthen international cooperation to eradicate the smuggling ring.
Guangzhou police told the newspaper on Wednesday that the cases had been recorded and they would release relevant information when they had it.
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