A 55-year-old Danish woman was convicted Thursday on drug trafficking charges and sentenced to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay a $7,200 fine by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, officials said.
Johanne Vinther Axelsen was arrested in April with more than 10,000 over-the-counter painkillers tablets, including codeine, when she tried to post the pills, which were stuffed inside children’s toys, clothes and envelopes, to addresses in the US and Canada. Though the pills were bought legally in Phnom Penh pharmacies, police officials said that it constituted international drug trafficking when Axelsen tried to post them to another country.
“Following a Jan 8 hearing, Johanne Vinther Axelsen was sentenced for illegally trafficking drugs across the border,” presiding Judge Chhay Kong said on Thursday when announcing his verdict.
Axelsen’s son, Niels Eikeland, 28, who has been missing since his mother’s arrest, was also sentenced in absentia, Chhay Kong said.
Chhay Kong said the court issued an arrest warrant for Eikeland shortly after his mother’s arrest and police confirmed Thursday that they are actively looking for Eikeland in Cambodia in connection with drug trafficking.
Following the court’s announcement, Axelsen repeated her claim that she was innocent and blamed her conviction on a corrupt court system. “It is really crazy; I cannot stand it,” she said outside the courtroom. “It shows clearly that in Cambodia if you have money, you are not guilty, and if you have no money, you are guilty…. I will find a way to get out of this terrible prison,” she added, before being put in a vehicle that took her back to Prey Sar Correctional Center 2, where she has been held since her arrest in April.
The Danish Embassy said the 15-year sentence was not in proportion to the crime, and the embassy is currently looking into ways to appeal or to have Axelsen transferred to a Danish prison, said Tom Hansen, head of representation for the embassy in Phnom Penh.
“We find the sentencing very harsh…. We will look into all possibilities of what we can do in a case like this. And we would also like to know what the basis is for giving this harsh sentence,” Hansen said.
(Additional reporting by Cajsa Collin)