INDONESIA: A Kiwi man accused of smuggling drugs into Bali insists he is innocent and has been set up by others. Antony De Malmanche, a 52 year old man welfare recipient from Whanganui, says he is the victim of a sophisticated dating scam involving a fictitious woman, a gang of drug smugglers and 1.7kg of methamphetamines.
But Bali police insist he was an “operational target” in an investigation, who was under surveillance even before he reached Bali.
De Malmanche now faces a potential death sentence after being caught arriving at Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport last week with the drugs wrapped in plastic bags in his backpack.
There has been an outpouring of sympathy in New Zealand for the man who was injured in an accident in 2002, whose seven-year-old son drowned in 2004, and whose friends say started online dating looking for companionship. More than 131 people have donated, $NZ7474 so far, to an online legal fund.
In his first public statement on his arrest, De Malmanche told reporters at a hospital in Denpasar on Tuesday that he had been lured to mainland China, then Hong Kong, and then to Bali by a fictional woman named “Jessie” who he met online. It appears he believed she would marry him.
But he revealed that, in all his travels, he had never actually met “Jessie”, telling Fairfax Media: “She’s a fake”.
“Originally she was to meet me in China and then they made some excuse that she couldn’t make it, so they said to meet here, that they’d bought a ticket that she was already here,” he told reporters.
The gang included “someone in South Africa and they had someone in China as well”.
Of the existence of an international drug ring, De Malmanche said: “I have no knowledge of it”.
However, asked twice if he knew about the drugs he was carrying in his bag, he was unclear, at first suggesting he did not know about them, and then adding: “Hong Kong customs cleared it; I thought I was sweet, and then got here and, no.”
Bali customs officials originally said De Malmanche had been arrested on December 1 because he was acting suspiciously in the baggage claim area of Ngurah Rai airport as he waited to collect his bag. He told police he was in Bali for his wedding, and that his intended bride was due to fly in soon.
Police spokesman Hery Wiyanto said they waited for three days for De Malmanche’s contact to show up in Bali, but they never did.
“He made contact with the people in Hong Kong, under police surveillance, but [his contact] didn’t show up [in Bali] in the end. It was [Jessie’s] secretary he was supposed to meet,” Mr Hery said.
Police had originally believed De Malmanche to be a simple courier, but as a result of information received from the drug crime division at Indonesian police headquarters in Jakarta, “we believe he’s more than that”.