Holiday Ends In Prison Time For Backpacker

A French backpacker was sentenced to more than four years imprisonment on Thursday (23 May 2024) in the Perth District Court, after pleading guilty to possessing illicit drugs found by Australian Border Force (ABF) investigators.

The 29-year-old man, who was in Perth on a holiday visa, was sentenced to four years and four months, backdated to 23 August 2023 with a non-parole period of two years and six months.

He had entered an early guilty plea to a charge of one count of possessing a substance being a border controlled drug, namely cocaine, contrary to section 307.6 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

An order for forfeiture of $5,600 was also imposed by the court, after ABF investigators seized the cash during his arrest at an East Perth hostel in August 2023.  

The sentencing is the culmination of an ABF investigation sparked after officers at the Perth International Airport stopped a second French national after arriving on a flight in June 2023.

ABF officers found messages and photos on the traveller’s phone in relation to parcels being posted to Australia. This led to the detection of seven separate international mail packages, from June to August 2023, containing a combined weight of 370 grams of cocaine and 72 grams of MDMA concealed in facial cream, biscuit packages and other household items.

The second man is also facing charges and is next due to appear in the Perth District Court on 28 June 2024. 

ABF Commander Ranjeev Maharaj said ABF officers at Perth International Airport worked closely in collaboration with Department of Home Affairs Intelligence to achieve an outstanding result to protect the community from the harm caused by illicit drugs.

“Make no mistake, regardless of how creative criminals think they are being in attempts to smuggle illicit drugs into the country, we are onto them,” Commander Maharaj said.

“This sentencing should serve as a warning to others thinking they can get away with dealing in even small amounts of illicit drugs, we will find you and you will face the consequences.”

Commander Maharaj said the case also highlighted the importance of ABF officers having the legislated power to search mobile phones and other electronic devices of passengers at the airport.

“Information seized from passengers’ phones has contributed to the success of many law enforcement operations targeting illegal activities, including child exploitation material, terrorism-related material and in this case, plans to import and deal in illicit drugs.”

As the French national was in Australia on a temporary visa, he will now be considered for removal from the country after he finishes his sentence, under section 501 of the Migration Act 1958 that allows for the cancellation of a visa on character grounds.

/Public Release. View in full here.