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Dampier meth mule loses appeal

A convicted drug mule who smuggled more than 30kg of methamphetamine into Dampier has lost his appeal against sentence.

Bulgarian national Sava Ivanov Kyuldzhiev was sentenced to 13 years in jail, with a non-parole period of nine years and six months, in September last year for importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug into Australia.

He pleaded guilty to the charge.

Kyuldzhiev — a sailor with the Bulgarian Merchant Navy — transported 30.2kg of meth in March, 2018 from China to Dampier aboard an iron ore bulk carrier on which he was a crewman, with the intention of delivering it to co-offenders Georgi Stanchev and Nadezhda Nikolaeva Bratanova once in Australia.

He smuggled the drugs off the vessel hidden in a lifejacket and his luggage and was loading them into a vehicle with Stanchev and Bratanova when the trio were arrested by police, who had been monitoring the group as part of a joint State and Federal operation.

With a purity of 78.5 per cent, the imported meth was estimated to be worth between $3.22 million and $8.775 million.

Last month, Kyuldzhiev argued in the WA Court of Appeal the sentencing judge had erred in finding his role in the offending had been “broadly equivalent” to Stanchev’s, who planned the receipt of the drugs in Dampier, and that his sentence was “manifestly excessive”.

However, judges Robert Mazza, Robert Mitchell and Andrew Beech dismissed the appeal, finding Kyuldzhiev had been a “consecutive link in the supply chain” like Stanchev and his sentence was “broadly consistent” with those handed down in similar cases.

“(The appellant) imported the drugs knowing that he was bringing a large quantity of illegal drugs into Australia,” they said in their judgment.

“While he was a courier rather than an organiser of the enterprise, couriers are a vital link in the importation and subsequent distribution of drugs in Australia, as the sentencing judge recognised.”

“Further, the volume and purity of methamphetamine involved and the period over which the appellant was involved made this a serious example of an offence against s 307.1 of the Criminal Code.”

The court was told Kyuldzhev had been approached about the deal by a stranger in Bulgaria and offered €5000 ($8000) per kilogram of drugs he carried, meaning he would have been paid €150,000 ($250,000) if successful.

The judges said while Kyuldzhiev’s circumstances included mitigating factors, such as no history of offending, the importance of general deterrence in drug importation cases meant those had to be given less weight.

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