, 12 December 2014
Bali Nine drug kingpin Andrew Chan, who is facing death by firing squad in Indonesia, masterminded another international heroin smuggling attempt out of Hong Kong – but the operation failed, resulting in three young Australians being jailed.
Daily Mail Australia can reveal for the first time that Chan enlisted Sydney teenager Rachel Diaz, 17, and Chris Vo, 15, both from western Sydney, as drug couriers to smuggle $1 million worth of heroin in condoms, which they were to swallow in Hong Kong and bring back to Australia.
The Hong Kong deal was to run at the same time as the Bali Nine operation – when Chan, Myuran Sumurakan and seven Australian mules were arrested, some with the drugs strapped to their bodies.
It can also be revealed that after his own arrest, Chan wrote a letter to Diaz in Hong Kong, ordering her to keep her mouth shut.
Chan and syndicate partner Sumurakan are on death row and were told this week by new Indonesian President Joko Widodo that he would not grant them pardons, despite their attempts to rehabilitate themselves behind bars. They could face death by firing squad in coming months.
Chan, who Indonesian police called ‘The Godfather’ when they arrested him, was a key organiser of the Australian end of the smuggling and distribution network, which was detailed in the Hong Kong court during Diaz’s trial and described as a ‘predatory crime syndicate’.
In just two weeks in April 2005, the syndicate was responsible for the arrest, and later the incarceration, of 17 young Australians for heroin trafficking in three countries.
Diaz, Vo and their minder Hutchinson Tran, 22, were arrested in a low budget Hong Kong hotel room on April 12, 2005.
They were found with 114 condoms filled with up to 1kg of heroin – but Diaz had had second thoughts about taking part in the operation, for which they were to be paid $200 for each 5cm-long condom they ingested.
Diaz’s father Ferdinand failed to get his daughter released on bail and 12 months after her arrest, she was sentenced to 10 years and eight months. Vo, by then 16, received nine years, and Tran got 13 years and four months.
All have since been released, with Diaz serving out the majority of her sentence in a NSW women’s prison after being transferred in February 2009 under the International Transfer of Prisoners’ Act.
Five days after her arrest, Bali police arrested Chan, Sukumaran and their mules Renae Lawrence, Martin Stephens, Scott Rush, Si Yi Chen, Matthew Norman, Michael Czugaj and Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen. The seven couriers recruited by Chan and Sukumaran have all received sentences ranging from 18 years to life.
Both the Bali Nine and the Hong Kong drug smuggling deals were connected with a third, lesser-known attempted heroin importation in which Chan and Sukumaran conspired with four young Brisbane people.
Daily Mail Australia can also reveal that in the lead up to the Bali Nine and the Hong Kong operations Chan and Sukumaran visited a young Korean-Australian who was later arrested and charged over the Hong Kong conspiracy following the arrest of Diaz, Vo and Tran.
A Korean-Australian and a co-conspirator were charged with plotting to import the packages of heroin that Diaz and 15-year-old Vo were meant to swallow.
Chan visited the Korean-Australian at least three times in different NSW prisons and once with Sukumaran in late 2004, just before the two made two ‘practice’ runs to Indonesia with several of the future Bali Nine couriers, including Renae Lawrence, and successfully returned to Australia with heroin strapped to their bodies.
Chan, who was a manager at a Sydney catering company, duped three of his staff – Lawrence, Norman and Stephens – into becoming mules, promising them thousands of dollars in return.
Following the arrests in Hong Kong and Bali within days of each other – and a series of other arrests in Sydney and Brisbane just days later – police said the Bali Nine had no connection with the Diaz case.
However, detectives have exclusively revealed that Chan was in contact with Diaz for months and all three trafficking deals were connected to a Sydney-based Chinese drug smuggling syndicate which had links to Myanmar.
Chan, who has found God in prison, was regularly visiting another convicted drug dealer in prison as he was conspiring to commit the Bali Nine deal.
Diaz and Vo were recruited to go to Hong Kong as drug mules, police say, on the promise of $6000 or $7000 for a single trip.
Diaz, a trainee hairdresser with churchgoing Filipino migrant parents, and Vo, a McDonald’s worker and son of a single mother of Vietnamese origin, came from modest income families in western Sydney.
Neither had previously known connections with drug syndicates, nor had they met before they flew out from Sydney to Hong Kong in April 2005.
Diaz’s parents, Ferdinand and Maria, believed she was having a sleep-over at a friend’s house and then reported her missing when she failed to return.
On the day she and Vo were due home, April 13, police believe the Korean-Australian went to Sydney Airport to collect them, armed with three packets of laxatives.
Diaz and Vo were in a room at the Imperial Hotel, in Hong Long’s Tsim Sha Tsui backpacker district, with the 114 heroin-filled condoms, supplied by Hutchinson Tran, when police burst in.
Vo was prepared to swallow 30 packages but Diaz had apparently reconsidered, realising they could burst inside her stomach during the eight-hour flight back to Sydney.
Meanwhile, four Australians from Brisbane – aged 24, 22, 18, and 19, had been arrested in Brisbane and charged with conspiring with Chan and Sukumaran of conspiring to import heroin to Australia.
A fifth, Khanh Thanh Ly, 24, was arrested in Sydney. Ly subsequently pleaded guilty, but said he was only a ‘run around’ in the gang whose members included Sukumaran, and was never paid but did it for the ‘glamour’ and entries to parties and clubs.
The Bali Nine incident was linked to one of the world’s biggest drug syndicates, Crescent Moon, which has smuggled large quantities of heroin from Myanmar (Burma) to Western countries.
Chan has admitted he saw the Bali Nine deal as a ‘quick pay day’. He has never spoken about his involvement in the Hong Kong deal.
In an interview with ABC TV he pleaded for clemency, saying if his death sentence was commuted and he was released from prison, he wanted to help the community and become a minister of religion.