Fish statue drug smuggler weeps at 10-year sentence

By Aarti Betigeri

Updated October 25, 2017 14:14:37

A Nigerian national has collapsed in tears in the ACT Supreme Court, after being handed a 10-and-a-half-year jail term for importing more than 10 kilograms of methamphetamine into Australia.

Jackson Igwebuike, 34, had hidden the drugs inside ornate gold fish-shaped statues, and was arrested in a police sting in 2015.

In court today he cried as Justice Hilary Penfold read out the sentence, then sobbed loudly as guards led him out.

Justice Penfold told the court that, according to documents and letters submitted by the defence team, Igwebuike was socially isolated in the Alexander Maconochie Centre jail and in Canberra, as all his family remains in Nigeria and he is culturally different to other prisoners.

She said he would most likely be deported back to Nigeria upon his release.

Igwebuike was found guilty by a jury on charges of importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug in August.

The quantity of drugs involved had a street value of about $10 million.

Igwebuike caught in police sting

The drugs were discovered by Australian Border Force officials inside golden statues of fish that arrived on a crate from China in October 2015.

Police had swapped the drugs out for a substitute, then put the statues back together and tracked it as it arrived at an address in Canberra.

Igwebuike was arrested later that month as he tried to board a bus from Canberra to Sydney. In his suitcase police found 43 packages of the drug substitute.

Igwebuike claimed he knew nothing of the drugs, and that two men had threatened to “destroy him” if he didn’t take the packages to Sydney.

However Justice Penfold said she was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt he was to receive a payment for transporting the packages.

Igwebuike arrived in Canberra on a student visa to study at the University of Canberra, however the visa has since been cancelled.

Citing defence submissions, Justice Penfold said Igwebuike had been an exemplary prisoner during his time in jail, where he works in the prison kitchen.

She said he had reported being depressed and lonely, and spent all his earnings on phone calls to his family in Nigeria.

Igwebuike said he was expected to provide for his blind and ageing father, and due to his incarceration, his brother has been forced to leave university.

While Justice Penfold sympathised with his plight and family’s situation, she pointed out that a crime of the magnitude Igwebuike had committed might otherwise attract a life sentence.

Igwebuike will serve a minimum non-parole sentence of six-and-a-half years and, including the two years he has already spent behind bars, meaning he could be released in April 2022.

Topics: courts-and-trials, law-crime-and-justice, drugs-and-substance-abuse, community-and-society, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted October 25, 2017 14:07:58