Nigerian and Vietnamese Deny Charges of Heroin Smuggling

A Nigerian-Vietnamese couple arrested in July 2014 on suspicion of smuggling 1.5 kg of heroin from Cambodia to Australia on Thursday denied the charges against them during their trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Nigerian national Samuel Amechi Okeke, 34, and his wife Ho Thi Nhu Thuy, 26, allegedly mailed about 10 backpacks lined with heroin to Australia from the Dangkao district post office in May that year.

The backpacks—whose straps had also been stuffed with the drugs—were intercepted by customs officials in Australia, who alerted Cambodian authorities. After two months under surveillance, the couple was arrested in Phnom Penh on July 15 and subsequently charged with drug trafficking.

Under questioning by Presiding Judge Than Leng on Thursday, Ms. Thuy admitted to mailing the backpacks, but said she did so at the request of a friend named Sunny, and that she had been unaware that they contained heroin. She also admitted to using the passport of another person when dropping off the backpacks at the post office.

“Did you have any doubts when Sunny asked you to send these bags to his relatives, but the name of the sender was not Sunny?” Judge Leng asked her.

“He told me his passport was expired, so he gave me another person’s passport,” Ms. Thuy replied, speaking through a translator.

Mr. Okeke denied involvement in the smuggling attempt, saying he knew nothing about his wife’s relationship with Sunny.

He said he and his wife ran a successful business buying clothing, shoes and bags and shipping them to retailers in Nigeria and had no reason to transport drugs.

Also in the courtroom on Thursday was Sok Soy, the post office worker who inspected the heroin-lined backpacks. He said he did not make a copy of the passport that Ms. Thuy used because the backpacks had “looked ordinary.”

“It is your mistake,” Judge Leng responded. “Next time, don’t be careless like this because everything is your responsibility.”

A verdict in the case is set to be handed down on March 3.

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