China

NZ-Australian Peter Gardner in China drug-smuggling trial

Peter Gardner arrives at court in Guangzhou (7 May 2015) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Peter Gardner said he was told not to look inside the bags he was carrying

A New Zealand-born Australian man has gone on trial in southern China for attempting to smuggle crystal methamphetamine out of the country.

If found guilty, Peter Gardner, 25, could be executed. He told the court he did not know it was in his bags.

Mr Gardner was arrested last November in Guangzhou allegedly carrying over 30kg (66lb) of the drug in his luggage.

China has strict drug laws - anyone found carrying more than 50g of meth faces a potential death penalty.

China carries out more executions than the rest of the world put together, according to Amnesty International, but actual numbers are difficult to verify as the government does not release the figures.

'I broke the law'

Mr Gardner - who has joint New Zealand and Australian citizenship and was travelling on his New Zealand passport - was stopped at Guangzhou's airport while attempting to get on a flight to Sydney.

He was transporting two sealed pieces of luggage containing the drugs, said the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Gardner told the Guangzhou court he had not looked inside the bags he was carrying

His Australian girlfriend, Kalynda Davis, was also detained but was released without charge in December.

In a live online broadcast of the court proceedings on Thursday, Mr Gardner was heard testifying off-screen that he had made "a really big mistake" and brought "a big shame" to his family.

"I have broken the law and there's no getting out of it," he said.

Image caption Mr Gardner's trial was broadcast live on the Guangzhou court website

He said he had come to China to buy muscle-building supplements, and indicated he did not know what he was carrying as he was told not to look inside the bags.

Mr Gardner also said he had no previous drug convictions and would be willing to help identify Chinese suspects in the case.

New Zealand's foreign affairs and trade ministry told the BBC that consulate staff in Guangzhou were supporting Mr Gardner.

Anti-drug campaign

Image copyright CFP
Image caption Police in China have been cracking down on the illegal drug trade and destroying large hauls

Mr Gardner's case follows the high-profile executions of two Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, in Indonesia for drug trafficking.

Last September, Australian officials said several of its citizens were facing the death penalty in China for drugs charges, with a number of them caught in Guangzhou, known as a methamphetamine hub.

China has been waging a crackdown on the illegal drug trade, which has found profitable routes to Australia and other parts of the region.

Authorities have made several high-profile arrests, including minor celebrities such as Jackie Chan's son, Jaycee.

Last year more than 168,000 suspects of narcotics crime were arrested and police seized nearly 70 tonnes of drugs, including about 26 tonnes of methamphetamine, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Australia, meanwhile, has said crystal meth presents the highest risk to Australian communities of any illegal substance.

It says increasing amounts of the drug's ingredients are being seized on its borders, much of it imported from India and China.

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