Police have made a monumental error, mistaking a large quantity of herbal tea for illicit drugs and sending the ‘dealers’ to prison.
There is no denying Vun Pui “Connie” Chong and her daughter, San Yan Melanie Lim, had intended to make a profit.
Their intentions, however, were far from the illegal criminal masterminds of drug dealing.
The pair imported 25 kilograms of brown ginger tea into Australia, with an intention to sell it at a marked-up price.
The herbal beverage is a remedy for period pain in the pairs home country Malaysia.
Unlike traditional drug lords, their pursuit (assuming all ran smoothly) was only meant to bear a profit of approximately $90 AUD. Not quite enough to buy some gold chains a 1990s Ford Pronto.
The mission did not run smoothly and all.
Australian Border Force (ABF) intercepted the packages at the international airport and identified the contents as amphetamine.
Chong and Lim’s home in southwest Sydney was raided by heavily armed officers in January and the duo were arrested.
The authorities were made aware that there were issues with the tests used to identify the substances, however they were still jailed for four undeserving months.
Officers were relying on evidence that showed the tea had returned a positive preliminary test for prohibited drugs, but the formal test revealed the ginger tea contained no trace of drugs. #9Newshttps://t.co/iI60fgHVh6
— 9News Australia (@9NewsAUS) October 5, 2021
It was heard in Sydney Downing Local Court that the ABF did presumptive “hazmat” tests to identify the substance as the stimulant drug, Phenmetrazine.
The tests performed to identify the substance are said to merely identify a spectrum of similar substances to Phenmetrazine.
Sugar, sucrose, and powdered sugar were all more likely substances to derive the result from this particular test.
A forensic operator from Australian Federal Police wrote to the leading officer on the case, Detective Senior Constable Tara Conaghan, expressing his uncertainty around the result.
“Mate in a nutshell we cannot take from this ABF result that the sample contains or does not contain Phenmetrazine.”
This information was never passed onto the women’s defence team.
How ridiculous is this? The right thing to do would be to publicly apologise and pay compensation as the two have gone through enough.
Two Sydney women imprisoned for five months after ginger tea shipment mistaken for drugs https://t.co/vVDkt8BeIC
— Andreas Steinwachs 🌱 (@andysteinwachs) October 5, 2021
On top of this, Detective Conaghan did not inform them when requesting the samples to be expedited due to an email from another AFP officer claiming the lab results from similar products were determined as “no prohibited substances detected.”
Lim and Chong were held in prison until May, and charges were not removed until August 10.
Conaghan was asked about her choice to keep information hidden from the detainees during a cross-examination.
“Because the drugs were still waiting to be completely tested,” Conaghan responded.
The mother-daughter pair are suing for costs that the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution has refused to pay. So, put that in your pipe and smoke it!
Just kidding, please don’t… it’s still just tea.