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| Australian may face death penalty over Bali meth haul |
Tom Allard -
October 2, 2010
Michael Sacatides ... arrested at Bali's Denpasar airport.
A Sydney man has denied he knowingly brought drugs into Indonesia after allegedly being caught yesterday with 1.7 kilos of methamphetamine at Bali's airport thanks to a high-tech scanner provided by the Australian government.
Michael Sacatides, a 43-year-old instructor in Thai boxing from Wentworthville, could face the death penalty if convicted. Methamphetamine, also known as ice or crystal meth, is a category one drug in Indonesia.
Wearing an orange shirt emblazoned with the Indonesian word for criminal, the well-built and shaven-headed Mr Sacatides sat stony-faced during a press conference at the airport yesterday while customs officials relayed the circumstances of his arrest and his subsequent denial.
The drugs, with an estimated value of 3.4 billion rupiah ($385,000), were allegedly hidden in the lining of his luggage and were noticed when he went through the scanner.
The Bali customs chief, Bambang Mulyadi, said it was provided by the Australian government about a year ago and is more sensitive than a drug-sniffer dog.
''We have suspected the luggage since early on,'' he said. ''After his bag went through the scanner, there was a shadow.
''So we put it through the scanner and the scanner detected a 30 per cent of crystal meth. The machine was given to us by the Australian government and it's their citizen we caught.''
Mr Sacatides was initially charged with offences which carry a 15-year prison sentence, but Mr Bambang said this was likely to be upgraded after further investigation. Upgraded charges could carry the death penalty.
Mr Sacatides, who has lived in Bangkok for three years, told authorities he borrowed a bag from an Indian friend and was shocked when the drugs were found. He insisted he had no instructions to meet or call anybody on arrival in Bali and had just come for a holiday.
He had travelled to the island from Bangkok and was due to return on Monday. He had told Indonesian officials that everything else in the bag was his own.
Mr Sacatides, who refused to answer questions from the media, was to spend the night in the lock-up at police headquarters as the authorities continued inquiries.
Three other Australians, Scott Rush, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, are on death row in Indonesia for attempting to export more than eight kilograms of heroin from Bali to Australia in 2005. They are in the middle of their final legal appeals to avoid an appointment with a firing squad.
The arrest of Mr Sacatides is unlikely to be helpful to their cases. Local authorities are also unlikely to be sympathetic given the drugs were allegedly brought into the country, presumably for distribution there.
Indonesia has a significant problem with methamphetamine, known locally as shabu-shabu and in Australia as ice. It is highly addictive and can lead to deep psychological problems for regular users.
Australian consulate officials have been informed of the arrest.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
| Australian faces meth charge in Bali |
By Indonesian correspondent Matt Brown -
Updated Fri Oct 1, 2010
Michael Sacatides was allegedly found with 1.7 kilograms of methamphetamine. (AFP: Sonny Tumbelaka )
The Australian man detained at Bali's international airport with almost two kilograms of methamphetamine says he knew nothing about the drugs and is not a drug smuggler.
Indonesian customs officers say Michael Sacatides, 43, from Sydney arrived this morning on a Air Asia flight from Bangkok.
They say he has now been transferred to police custody.
They will take several days or up to several weeks to decide whether to lay formal charges.
The officers became suspicious when they saw a plastic bag in his luggage as it passed through the X-ray machine.
The head of the investigation has told the ABC when they opened the bag they found the drugs in four plastic bags concealed in the panels of his suitcase.
People found guilty of smuggling more than five grams of methamphetamine face the death penalty.
But Mr Sacatides says he knew nothing about the drugs and borrowed the suitcase form an Indian man in Bangkok, where he has been living for a year and a half, working as a boxing instructor.
"No I didn't bring any drugs - this is news to me," he is heard saying in a recording of the police interview.
Mr Sacatides says nobody gave him any money or asked him to take the bag.
"I borrowed the bag to put, I don't have a bag. I just borrowed a bag to put some clothes in," he said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) says consular officials are trying to get in contact with Mr Sacacides.
DFAT says it is not known whether Indonesian authorities have charged him with an offence.
Methamphetamine is a class one narcotic under Indonesian law.
Three Australians, all members of the so-called Bali Nine heroin smuggling ring, are currently on death row.
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