Smuggler blames debt over drugs By Christine Caulfield
October 9, 2004
A JOURNALIST with a heroin addiction said he smuggled 1.4kg of cocaine into Australia to settle a debt with his dealers.
Royal Turanga Eria Abbott, 51, a New Zealand citizen, had been abusing drugs for more than 30 years in a bid to rebel against his strict Jehovah's Witness upbringing, the County Court heard.
His addiction worsened in 1993 after a serious car crash killed a close friend, and spiralled out of control when an eight-year relationship ended last year.
The Australian Associated Press reporter pleaded guilty to importing cocaine with a street value of up to $800,000.
He has been behind bars on remand since April 19, when he arrived at Melbourne airport from South Africa and was nabbed by Customs
The court heard he had concealed the drugs in a back brace under his clothes, after picking it up from a contact named "Johnny" at Johannesburg airport.
He initially told police he had been instructed to act as a courier to pay off a $4700 debt he owed a Vietnamese dealer, who had been feeding his $1000a-week heroin habit.
The court was told he agreed to help federal agents arrest the dealer, but tipped off his alleged accomplice in a late-night telephone call, saying "I'm in the cell. They're trying to get the f--ing people."
Abbott later admitted he was the mastermind and planned to sell the cocaine for $150,000.
He said he owed $20,000 to Johnny, a dangerous international dealer with connections to Columbian drug lords.
"I owed a lot more than I thought," Abbott said.
"It was very complicated and it was a real mess. He had somebody come and visit me sometimes and threaten me."
Defence lawyer Rob Stary said Abbott had been experimenting with drugs since he was 18 in defiance of his parents' religious beliefs and strict moral standards.
Despite abusing all manner of opiates, tranquillisers, stimulants and hallucinogens, he had functioned in the community and had been well-respected in his profession until his addiction got the better of him.
Abbott was now voluntarily undergoing drug treatment in custody.
Judge Joe Gullaci remanded Abbott in custody for sentencing next week.
(thats some long term rebellion!)