CHIANGRAI TIMES – Prosecutors in Bali have sought a relatively lenient one-year sentence for a British woman alleged to be part of a transnational drug-smuggling attempt, arguing that her involvement was minor.
Prosecutor Putu Astawa told the Denpasar District Court on Tuesday that Rachel Lisa Dougall, 39, should only be convicted for not informing the authorities about known drug activity, and not for dealing or possession.
Astawa said that the 49 grams of cocaine seized from the rented villa where Dougall was arrested on May 25 actually belonged to her husband, Julian Anthony Ponder, 43, who is alleged to have masterminded the smuggling attempt.
The prosecutor added there were no indications that Dougall had conspired with Ponder and fellow British national Lindsay June Sandiford, 56, to smuggle 4.7 kilograms of cocaine in from Bangkok.
“That’s why we’re only pursuing a charge that carries a maximum jail sentence of one year,” Astawa said.
Dougall and Ponder were arrested in a sting operation along with another British national, Paul Beales, 40, and Indian national Nandagopal Akkineni, 41, following Sandiford’s arrest on May 19.
Sandiford, a housewife, was stopped by customs officers at Denpasar’s Ngurah Rai International Airport with the 4.7 kilos of cocaine in her luggage. The drugs had an estimated street value of more than Rp 23 billion ($2.5 million).
Sandiford is alleged to have obtained the drugs in Thailand with Dougall, Ponder and Beales. The four are then alleged to have packed it into Sandiford’s luggage before leaving separately for Bali to allay any suspicion about their activity.
Sandiford claimed she was forced into smuggling the drugs after Ponder threatened to kill her son. For their part, Ponder, Dougall and Beales claimed that there was never any smuggling conspiracy hatched in Thailand and that they were only there on their respective vacations.
Sandiford and Ponder face charges that could see them get the death sentence, while Beales faces up to four years.
Akkineni was convicted on Tuesday and sentenced to five years in prison, less than the seven years sought by prosecutors. Akkineni’s lawyer, Haposan Sihombing, said that his client accepted the verdict and would not mount an appeal.
In the cases of Beales and Akkineni, prosecutors withdrew the earlier charges of smuggling and instead went with the lesser charges of drug possession. Beales was arrested with 3.1 grams of hashish, while Akkineni was found with 279 grams of ecstasy.