A 51-year-old Cambodian-Australian woman will spend at least four years in jail after being convicted by an Australian court of smuggling almost 650 grams of heroin into the country from Cambodia by swallowing hundreds of balloons packed with the drug, according to Australian media.
Lorn Cheng was arrested in January when customs officials at Sydney Airport reportedly ordered a full body scan after her luggage tested positive for traces of cocaine and ephedrine. The test revealed she was carrying 252 pellets of heroin in her stomach with a street value of up to $740,000.
The New South Wales Downing Centre District Court sentenced Ms. Cheng on Friday to eight years with no parole eligibility for four years, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
Ms. Cheng admitted in court to smuggling the drugs to pay off a $10,000 debt to a violent loan shark, ABC reported.
“I was depressed, I had to look after the children myself, I began to drink and I was gambling,” Ms. Cheng said in court through a Khmer interpreter, as she cannot speak English.
“I was scared that harm could be done to the children because I heard that people who owe money to this particular person, they go looking for these people…they break arms or legs,” she said, adding that she was promised $25,000 for transporting the drugs.
“I really regret what I did. I’m sorry for it,” she said. “As a mother, as a grandmother, I really regret what I’ve done and that it was not good for my children.”
The Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Khieu Saman, head of the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug trafficking department, said he could not provide information about the case.
“This is the joint cooperation and assistance between two countries, so why does a journalist need to know?” he said.
“It’s our job and our internal matter, so I cannot tell you.”