The 'Bali nine'.
April 24, 2005 3:43 AM   Subscribe

The Australian media is calling them the 'Bali nine'. Nine young Australians are being held in Bali under suspicion for attempting to smuggle 8.3 kg (or 11.25 kg depending on what you read) of heroin through Bali's airport. They were caught with the drugs allegedly strapped to their bodies while accomplices were apprehended at a nearby hotel. Most of the nine Australians are now cooperating with police enquiries even though they fear doing so will further endanger the lives of their families (e.g. drug lords punishing them for talking). Don't get this latest case mistaken, however, with the other high-profile Australian drugs case in the Australian media right now. Beauty therapist Schapelle Corby, 27, is also being held in Bali for the 4.1 kg of top-notch marijuana found in her bodyboard bag some months ago. Prosecutors in that case have asked for a life sentence to be handed down to Corby. She has supposedly escaped death by firing squad. Her legal team and family, though, say she was a victim of dodgy baggage handlers and an Australian interstate drug smuggling operation that uses unknowing interstate Australian travellers as drug mules. Most Australians are worried about this, too. Of course, the strain of the case on Corby is beginning to show. But getting back to the 'Bali nine'. What will their fate be? Another Australian was just given an execution order in Vietnam for also smuggling Heroin. It's all nasty stuff, hey. News reports indicate that Australian officials will seek clemency for those involved in the latest Bali bust. Yeah, but how much good will that do? Indonesia is well known for enforcing strong anti-drug laws. And who can blame them?
posted by sjvilla79 (41 comments total)
I can! Blame, blame, blame!
posted by sexyrobot at 4:23 AM on April 24, 2005

[This is fucked up]
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:07 AM on April 24, 2005

I emailed my MP, suggesting we just slip someone a quiet million and forget the whole thing.

I'm ropeable over the mental torture inflicted on this young woman. Death for grass? Get real. Not to mention the dope into Bali stuff doesn't wash.

And the heroin. I hear you can score pretty well everywhere. Just accept that drugs are a part of some people's lives now. Ten years in an Australian jail would be accepted by most.
posted by emf at 5:13 AM on April 24, 2005

From the first Schapelle link:

"Australia and Indonesia have also agreed to begin talks on a prisoner transfer agreement. Ellison said there were about 11 Australians in jail in Indonesia and more than 30 Indonesians imprisoned in Australia"

So it's not so much about principles or the "threat" of drugs (in this case a plant with zero toxicity), it's about bargaining chips. Times like this I really want to believe in a wrathful god of justice and would love to see these motherfuckers burn in their own sanctimony.
posted by effwerd at 5:44 AM on April 24, 2005

Don't know if they still do it, but when I passed through Singapore customs they had a pretty large sign warning you that if you were caught drug smuggling it would result in the death penalty. No ifs, ands, or buts.

There is a serious double-standard in play, however, in most of SEA (Singapore is a bit of an outlier). Drugs are easy to get. In Indonesia, the Gili island chain off Lombok is famous because there are no police stationed there, and thus drugs are freely advertised to tourists. In Laos, just about everyone knew how to get you opium. In Cambodia, marijuana came complimentary with my room at the guest house. There was never any threat of arrest so long as you kept in the country.

Why is that? Because SEA countries want to appear tough to the U.S. and show they, too, are serious about the war on drugs. In reality, it's the tourists who get nabbed in high-profile busts, then get the crazy-long sentences, not the drug producers. In Thailand you are encouraged by many farang guesthouses to go to the Bangkok prison and visit the damned. It's heartbreaking.

That said, everybody knows the rules: 1. Don't transport drugs between countries; 2. Don't do drugs outside the "safe" zone (normally your hotel/guesthouse). If you break the rules, be prepared for some serious consequences. Eight kilograms is a shitload of drugs.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:56 AM on April 24, 2005

Civil_Disobedient : "thus drugs are freely advertised to tourists."

Are magic mushrooms illegal in Indonesia?
posted by Bugbread at 6:03 AM on April 24, 2005

i'm like, glad they interviewed, like, an actor, 'cause like, he spoke very powerful words when he called it, like, "bullshit", and then reminded them of the 1bil relief money.
ie; the actor said, 'so if you release her with the 1bil in mind, you'll prove to the world that, for money, you're crooked enough to equate two completely unrelated events'
not such a beautiful mind
posted by emdog at 6:21 AM on April 24, 2005

Meanwhile, the media ignores the hundreds of ugly people rotting in jails round the world.
posted by dydecker at 6:22 AM on April 24, 2005

bugbread: Well, that wasn't the only thing available, it just happened that there was a special going on that was advertised. I'm not sure how the Indonesian government feels about shrooms, but I wouldn't want to try walking through customs with 8 kilos of them.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:31 AM on April 24, 2005

C_D: No worries, that wasn't an attack or anything. Just curious. Leaving the US, I was surprised at the number of countries where shrooms are legal (the UK, for example, and Japan until 2003 or so).
posted by Bugbread at 6:37 AM on April 24, 2005

C_D: There's a massive difference between use and traffiking. Using a car battery is totally legal in most countries (if not all) but customs won't be too happy if you carry one onto a 'plane.

Countries that have a more relaxed policy towards drugs within their borders (e.g. Canada, the Netherlands) still don't appreciate folks waltzing out with their pockets stuffed full o' goodies.
posted by i_cola at 7:05 AM on April 24, 2005

True, i_cola, but there's also a world of difference between trafficing and manufacturing. If the SEA countries were serious about curbing drug use, they'd crack down harder on the sources, not the mules. But it's great press for them to slap the cuffs on a foriegner. Not only does it look good to the U.S., but it reinforces to locals the notion that it's the foriegners who are the problem. Please don't misunderstand, though: you've gotta be a fucking moron to walk 17 lbs. of drugs past customs.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:16 AM on April 24, 2005

Prosecutor Ida Bagus Wiswantanu asked the court to find Ms Corby "officially and convincingly guilty" of attempting to smuggle 4.2kg of marijuana into Bali.

"The defendant's actions can ruin the image of Bali as a tourist destination," Mr Wiswantanu said.

sentencing foreigners to life imprisonment for smuggling 4 kilos of reefer doesn't do much to enhance that image either. even if it is skunk weed.

that being said, 4.2 kilos is one hell of a headstash.
posted by three blind mice at 8:21 AM on April 24, 2005

Ugh, I had an "extra happy" pizza in Cambodia when I was there, ate the whole thing, and was sick for two days. Way too much happy for the stomach.
posted by goatdog at 8:24 AM on April 24, 2005

I have crossed Bali off my places to visit when I get in that part of the world next year.
posted by mischief at 8:48 AM on April 24, 2005

"top-notch marijuana" is hyperbole. Reports suggest a significant portion was plain leaf.
posted by Thoth at 9:17 AM on April 24, 2005

Meanwhile, the media ignores the hundreds of ugly people rotting in jails round the world.

I wonder if Russell would have called this case "bullshit" if it was some fat, bald Aussie on the front pages of the papers.

It seems if you want to smuggle drugs, it certainly helps not to fit any of the stereotypes. Even when you get caught, still nobody believes you are a drug smuggler.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 10:08 AM on April 24, 2005

From the Daily Telegraph article:
Wiswantanu said the former beauty student's actions threatened to make Bali look like a drug haven and could have destroyed the lives of thousands of young Balinese.

4.1 kg is enough for that? It's not like this is the world's funniest joke she's smuggling.
posted by hototogisu at 11:10 AM on April 24, 2005

And who can blame them?

Well, I certanly can. And how!
posted by delmoi at 11:26 AM on April 24, 2005

Is weed as easy to get in Australia as it is in the US? If so, this might have been a trade. Lots of weed for some Opium derivatives.
posted by delmoi at 11:34 AM on April 24, 2005

The key fact about Schapelle Corby is that she was supposedly smuggling a quite small amount of marijuana into Indonesia. Who smuggles drugs into Indonesia? It doesn't make any sense.

The best part of the Bali Nine story so far is where their lawyer said they must be from "stupid families".
posted by AmbroseChapel at 1:58 PM on April 24, 2005

I had an "extra happy" pizza in Cambodia when I was there

Me, too, but the discombobulating stupor didn't come until I tried the weed-tea. I kept worrying that they would stiff me on the leaves, instead it was something like 3 parts marijuana to 1 part water. Sludge. I couldn't finish it, and was nearly immobile for two days. Never again.

And Thoth is right about the quality. Marijuana doesn't suit the practicalities of life for locals in SEA (in my limited experience)--amphetimines were far more popular. I don't think they understood that you're only supposed to use the female buds, so most places end up giving you a bunch of chaff. Buyer beware, and all that.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:37 PM on April 24, 2005

I think there are some unexplored angles here. First and foremost, let us agree that travelling through international borders carrying drugs is utterly stupid, unless that is what you do for a living, in which case the risks are well-known and accepted. But this is definitely not a field for amateurs. Second, trying to get drugs into a country that carries a death-penalty for drug smuggling is double utterly stupid. That said (and please notice I have not commented on the cases described here), what is really stupid is this jihad-like attitude towards drugs, strongly fed and happily cheered by the United States and the United Nations. What the hell are we doing in this day and age regulating what adult people can or cannot insert into their own bodies? Why do otherwise intelligent citizens participate in this mass-hysteria?
posted by nkyad at 3:39 PM on April 24, 2005

My wife's suggestion: Boycott Bali. If the Indonesians think "drugs" are going to scare tourists away from Bali, wait until they see how much the death penalty will scare them away. Let's face it. Tens of thousands of Australians go to Bali each year for the express purpose of getting drunk. Bali is about intoxication. The idea that some bags of weed will give the place a bad name shows how out of touch the Indonesian authorities are. Australians should stop visiting the place until the death penalty is removed.

The key fact about Schapelle Corby is that she was supposedly smuggling a quite small amount of marijuana into Indonesia.

4kgs of weed in a body-board bag. 4kgs of weed is both way more than might be considered for personal use, and way less than a useful commercial quantity. Who the fuck smuggles weed to asia, anyway? There is no way on earth this was in the bag when she passed through customs in Brisbane. Casual bystands would have been able to smell it, let alone sniffer dogs. And, as I understand it, Corby notified Indonesian authorities of the contents of her bag when she arrived. What kind of drug smuggler shows customs the drugs she's trying to smuggle? The whole thing stinks, but Australians have the power to act by taking their money elsewhere. I can attest that New Zealand's nice.
posted by Jimbob at 3:50 PM on April 24, 2005

Most Australians are worried about this, too. (Baggage interference).
They may have very good reasons to be worried.
posted by fullysic at 3:53 PM on April 24, 2005

The pot case is ridiculous. But smuggling kilos of smack out of a foreign country illustrates monumental stupidity. And it's a shame that their parents are in danger because of it, but what did they think would happen. International drug smugglers are not generally known as forgiving souls. I still believe that death or a life sentence would be ridiculous, but they should do some time.
posted by jonmc at 6:35 PM on April 24, 2005

As a frequent visitor to Indonesia, I'd be happy to see druggies boycott places like Bali. The sight and smell of dirty euro-hippies in these otherwise beautiful destinations is enough to make you think twice about going in the first place.

I think Bali would be better served to attract a higher end clientele anyways. As it is, it's bacially Australia's Tiajuana and it has so much more potential.

Bottom line: trashy people use drugs. The justice system needs lots of reform, but I think people who profit in killing brain cells should be at the bottom of the priority list.
posted by b_thinky at 6:49 PM on April 24, 2005

b_thinky, the scores and scores of drunks are a far worse problem than the relatively occasional stoner. And alcohol isn't going away from Bali any time soon.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:10 PM on April 24, 2005

let's see;
4kgs=8.8lbs=140.8ozs@$300/oz(depending on quality/marketing)=$40Kish.
not a bad vacation if ya pull it off.
posted by emdog at 7:45 PM on April 24, 2005

And who can blame them?

People who subscribe to reason and human decency?
posted by spazzm at 8:42 PM on April 24, 2005

let's see;
4kgs=8.8lbs=140.8ozs@$300/oz(depending on quality/marketing)=$40Kish.
not a bad vacation if ya pull it off.

But that looks around about Australian prices. So why - as many people have already pointed out - take such a huge risk to sell it at the same price in another country that is so tough on drugs? Why not just sell it in Queensland and then treat yourself to a holiday afterwards?

It doesn't make sense.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:31 PM on April 24, 2005

The arguably plausible defense on which they're relying is that the drugs were planted in her bag for a flight within Australia. The testimony isn't from the most reliable of sources (prison informant), but then most countries probably convict on the basis of such information all the time.
posted by dhartung at 10:36 PM on April 24, 2005

Don't know how much to read into this, but a security fella who uncovered a drug running ring amongst baggage handlers at Australian airports, and who was telling all his friends that he thought was going to get murdered, has mysteriously died.

I should add a rider to my last post and say I should never underestimate the capacity for human stupidity. Maybe it was a case of the last time she was in Bali, the drugs she scored were average (as Civil_Disobedient said is often the case) and she goes, "Hey! Why not bring a whole heap over and sell it to tourists?"

But on the other hand, wouldn't it have stunk to high heaven (as Jimbob said) and been noticed in Sydney?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:01 PM on April 24, 2005

Although this story paints him as a bit of a liar and a loony.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:06 PM on April 24, 2005

b_thinky : " Bottom line: trashy people use drugs."

Bottom line: Everybody except maybe my grandpa and you use drugs.
posted by Bugbread at 4:08 AM on April 25, 2005

IAAA(I am an Aussie) and the question I haven't heard is, why the hell would someone IMPORT drugs into Bali ? Like others have said, it's not exactly difficult to obtain in SEA and I'd have thought that any 'top notch weed' would have been passing north to south, not the other way. The baggage handlers should be shot for fucking up the delivery and putting the stash in the wrong surf board bag. And yeh, we're on our way to Cambodia & Thailand soon, and to be honest, I'm more than a little concerned about getting my bags tampered with. And fwiw, most popular opinion down here puts that Corby's innocent.
The 'Bali Nine', well they're fucked. Stupid time to do it, stupid place to do it and all for only AU$10,000. Idiots.
posted by oliyoung at 4:39 PM on April 25, 2005

oliyoung, that is the thing that most people I know are saying - Chapelle Corby had been to Bali many times before, so would know (if she was interested) that weed is more easily available and cheaper than in Australia. As far as most people here are concerned, that simple fact is enough - what kind of moron smuggles drugs into Bali?

As far as the nine who are morons go - they cannot possible argue that they did not know the death penalty was a possibility and they deserve whatever they get in my opinion. It pisses me off when I see people whining that "I didn't know" when every 12 year-old knows about it. They were all under surveillance the whole time they were in Bali and were doomed from the start.

Something that has not come up here is that, since the Chapelle Corby thing came up, a number of Australians have reported finding drugs in their bags after flights. One in particular contacted the Australian Embassy after flying into Bali and was told "flush it right now, don't tell anyone, whatever you do, don't contact the Indonesian authorities". That this case has got so far is insane and the only explanation I can see is that Indonesia wants to publicise its hard line on drug smugglers.
posted by dg at 7:29 PM on April 25, 2005

sight and smell of dirty euro-hippies...
...I think people who profit in killing brain cells should be at the bottom of the priority list

posted by b_thinky at 6:49 PM PST

The twist in the Bali 9 story was hearing of the death threats made against their families. Vulnerable, gullible and naive youths preyed on with enticements of holidays and spending money, then the trap shuts.
posted by tellurian at 11:35 PM on April 25, 2005

At Australian international airports, there are machines for shrink-wrapping baggage with tamperproof plastic wrap. For A$7 a bag, your baggage will be wrapped before it ever leaves your sight. Which seems expensive, but compared to life in an Indonesian prison or the death penalty, it's a bargain.

Everybody in Australia knows that virtually all of south-east Asia has the death penalty for drug smuggling, and "I don't know how they got there" is no excuse; after two Australians were executed in Malaysia in the 1980s in a high-profile smuggling case, and the Nicole Kidman film that followed this case, the dangers of allowing any drugs on your possessions as you go through Asia are well known.

The sensible thing for Corby to have done would have been (a) to check her baggage for additions and (b) have it wrapped before ever letting it into the baggage-handling system. It could be argued that the fact that she didn't do that is an act of reckless negligence, on a par with Darwin Award-worthy actions such as playing chicken with freight trains.

That said, that's a hell of a penalty for not checking your bags.
posted by acb at 4:42 AM on April 26, 2005

acb : "after two Australians were executed in Malaysia in the 1980s in a high-profile smuggling case, and the Nicole Kidman film that followed this case"

acb's referring to Bangkok Hilton, in case anyone's curious.
posted by Gyan at 9:18 AM on April 26, 2005

acb, I think it is a little extreme to say that someone should be punished for not wrapping their bags in plastic, if only because those machines are not available at all Australian airports (I have never seen them at any Australian airport, but that doesn't mean that some don't have them). I suspect that there would be a good market for them now, though.

The only opportunity she would have had to check her bag for additions would have been after collecting them after getting off her flight in Denpasar. Guess what? That is too late. To say that she was reckless for not either wrapping her bags or not checking them ignores the simple practicalities of the situation. I think is is a fair assumption when you leave your bags with the airline that they will not be used to smuggle drugs. Of course, I always have locks on my luggage.
posted by dg at 3:16 PM on April 26, 2005

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