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Three face life for heroin

French national Charlene Savarino leaves Phnom Penh Municipal Court
French national Charlene Savarino leaves Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday after being tried on drug-trafficking charges. Vireak Mai

Three face life for heroin

Three foreign nationals living in Cambodia are facing life sentences on heroin-trafficking charges.

The three suspects – a Nigerian man, an Australian woman and a French teenager – were tried yesterday at Phnom Penh Municipal Court for attempting to smuggle more than two kilograms of heroin from Cambodia to Australia.

Nigerian national Precious Chneme Nwoko, 23; Australian national Ann Yoshe Taylor, 41, and French citizen Charlene Savarino, 19, were charged yesterday with drug trafficking, according to presiding judge Kor Vandy.

Lieutenant Colonel Kong Narin, deputy chief of the Anti-Terrorism Department, said the foreigners are suspected members of an international drug-trafficking ring and were investigated for three months last year before being arrested on September 18.

Taylor and Savarino were arrested together at Phnom Penh International Airport, according to Narin.

“They were arrested while they were preparing to depart for Australia,” he said, adding that police seized 2.2 kilograms of heroin from their luggage.

Nwoko, Savarino’s boyfriend, was arrested at his rental house in Chamkarmon district’s Phsar Deum Thkov Commune later the same night after Taylor and Savarino were questioned.

All three suspects yesterday denied any involvement in a drug-trafficking ring, and asked that the court drop the charges and release them.

Taylor and Savarino both said that the luggage did not belong to them, but to Nwoko, who was sending them to an unidentified man living in Australia.

“I did not know that there were drugs hiding inside [the luggage]. If I had known, I would not have been involved with it,” Savarino said.

Nwoko also denied owning the luggage and claimed that it belonged to another Nigerian man named “Anto” who escaped.

Two Thai women were sentenced to life in prison last month for smuggling cocaine from Brazil to Cambodia, and in February this year, two Vietnamese methamphetamine dealers were also handed life sentences.

A verdict in the case of the three foreigners tried yesterday will be handed down on May 7.

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