PNG woman jailed for drug smuggling

A PAPUA New Guinean woman has been sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in jail for smuggling almost four kilograms of methylamphetamine, or ice, into Australia.

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Mary Yawari, 42, was arrested at Cairns Airport in far north Queensland in October 2013 when she stepped off an Air Niugini flight from Port Moresby.

She has been in custody since her arrest.

Three packages of drugs with an estimated street value of A$5 million (K10.5m) were found hidden in a false bottom in her checked baggage.

Customs officers uncovered 3.97kg of methylamphetamine with about 75 per cent purity, equating to 2.97kg of pure methylamphetamine.

Yawari faced a sentencing hearing in the Supreme Court in Cairns last Thursday.

She pleaded guilty to trafficking commercial quantities of illicit drugs, but claimed the suitcase was packed by her boyfriend – a South African man living in PNG – who asked her to deliver it to his friends.

Yawari said was unaware of the contents of the suitcase, except that they were “presents” for her boyfriend’s friends, whom she did not know.

Commonwealth prosecutor Andrew Lloyd said Yawari told police her boyfriend drove her to Port Moresby airport the morning of her flight.

“He gave her the suitcase at the airport and she did not previously know he was going to give her a suitcase,” Mr Lloyd told the court.

“You might recall, your honour, she said in her responses to Customs she said she was given the suitcase the day before.

“She stated [her boyfriend’s] friends would meet her [in Cairns] and get the bag at her hotel.

“She then corrected herself that she would stay a night in Cairns and [her boyfriend] would send her a ticket to Adelaide where the bag would be collected by friends [of her boyfriend]… who she said would be waiting for her at the airport.”

The court heard Yawari, a mother of four, was the second wife of the late governor of Southern Highlands, Hami Yawari.

Justice Jim Henry did not accept Yawari’s denial of culpability, saying she was effectively a drug mule who rolled the dice for a free trip to Australia.

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