Canadian citizen is sentenced to death in China for smuggling drugs into the country

A Canadian convicted of drug trafficking in China has been sentenced to death, according to a Chinese court, amid tensions over Canada‘s arrest of a Chinese technology executive late last year.

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, 36, was arrested in 2014 on suspicion of smuggling crystal meth from China to Australia, according to the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court. He was said to be caught while trying to flee from China to Thailand. 

He was initially sentenced 15 years in prison by the intermediate court in November, but a high court last month deemed the decision ‘too lenient’ and Schellenberg was given the death penalty in an open hearing today. 

‘I am not a drug smuggler. I came to China as a tourist,’ Schellenberg, said in his final statement before the sentence was announced. He was brought to the hearing in handcuffs. Schellenberg’s lawyer Zhang Dongshuo told Reuters he will likely appeal the sentence. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s concerned China has chosen to ‘arbitrarily’ apply death penalty to Canadian. Beijing has repeatedly denied any diplomatic pressure in the case.

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg (centre), 36, was sentenced to death on Monday by the Dalian Intermediate People's Court. He was arrested in 2014 on suspicion of smuggling crystal meth

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg (centre), 36, was sentenced to death on Monday by the Dalian Intermediate People's Court. He was arrested in 2014 on suspicion of smuggling crystal meth

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg (centre), 36, was sentenced to death on Monday by the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court. He was arrested in 2014 on suspicion of smuggling crystal meth

The public trial was held today in the Dalian Intermediate People's Court (pictured) in Liaoning

The public trial was held today in the Dalian Intermediate People's Court (pictured) in Liaoning

The public trial was held today in the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court (pictured) in Liaoning

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg shown in a handout released by National Post. His case has been publicised by Chinese press lately

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg shown in a handout released by National Post. His case has been publicised by Chinese press lately

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg shown in a handout released by National Post. His case has been publicised by Chinese press lately

Schellenberg’s case has been publicised by the Chinese press lately following the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of tech giant Huawei on December 1 on U.S. charges related to trading with Iran.

Since then, China has arrested two Canadian citizens on charges of endangering national security in apparent retaliation. A Canadian teacher was detained but released.

Schellenberg’s death sentence was announced during a first public trial by the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court today, according to an online court statement. All personal assets belonging to Schellenberg will be confiscated by the court.

‘The court completely rejects the accused person’s explanation and defence because it is completely at odds with the facts,’ the chief judge said in a courtroom packed with observers – among them Canadian embassy officials and three foreign reporters. 

The Dalian court said Schellenberg, who was detained in December 2014, played a ‘key part’ in an international drug trafficking syndicate that planned to ship some 222 kilogrammes (490 pounds) of methamphetamine to Australia, hidden in plastic pellets which were concealed in rubber tyres. 

‘Not just content with spreading drugs in one country, the syndicate has spread across borders … it is a harm to human health and also to the stability of countries,’ the court said. 

‘It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all our international friends and allies, that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply (the) death penalty … as in this case,’ Prime Minister told reporters in Ottawa after hearing about the decision. 

'I am not a drug smuggler. I came to China as a tourist,' Schellenberg, said in his final statement before the sentence was announced. He was brought to the hearing in handcuffs

'I am not a drug smuggler. I came to China as a tourist,' Schellenberg, said in his final statement before the sentence was announced. He was brought to the hearing in handcuffs

‘I am not a drug smuggler. I came to China as a tourist,’ Schellenberg, said in his final statement before the sentence was announced. He was brought to the hearing in handcuffs

Schellenberg was initially sentenced to 15 years in prison during a trial in November 20. The court also ruled to confiscate 150,000 yuan (£17,250, $22,170) from Schellenberg and to deport him. He appealed against the decision. 

The Liaoning High People’s Court on December 29 ruled that the original sentencing was too lenient and ordered the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court to re-try the case. 

Ottawa has said it was following the case ‘very closely’ and has provided Schellenberg with consular assistance. 

‘Global Affairs Canada has been following of this case for several years and has been providing consular assistance to the Canadian citizen since they were first detained in Liaoning, China,’ spokesman Richard Walker said. 

China has executed other foreigners for drug-related crimes in the past, including a Japanese national in 2014 and a Filipina in 2013. 

In 2009, a Briton, Akmal Shaikh, was executed in China on charges of smuggling heroin despite his supporters’ protest that he was mentally ill.

Experts said retrials are rare in China, especially ones calling for a harsher sentence.

Tensions have escalated between China and Canada since Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of tech giant Huawei, was arrested in Vancouver on December 1. Ms Meng, pictured arriving at a parole office in Vancouver on December 12, is fighting extradition to the U.S.

Tensions have escalated between China and Canada since Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of tech giant Huawei, was arrested in Vancouver on December 1. Ms Meng, pictured arriving at a parole office in Vancouver on December 12, is fighting extradition to the U.S.

Tensions have escalated between China and Canada since Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of tech giant Huawei, was arrested in Vancouver on December 1. Ms Meng, pictured arriving at a parole office in Vancouver on December 12, is fighting extradition to the U.S.

Schellenberg’s case is likely again to test relations between Beijing and Ottawa, which have been tense since Meng Wanzhou’s arrest. 

Meng was detained in Vancouver on December 1 at the request of the U.S., which accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.

Meng is the vice chairman of Huawei, the second-largest smartphone creator in the world.

After three days of hearings, she was released on bail of C$10million (US$7.4million) on December 11 – on the condition she surrender her two passports and agree to wear an ankle bracelet. 

She has been staying in Vancouver and confining herself to one of her two Vancouver homes from 11pm to 6am as she awaits possible extradition to the U.S.

After the news of Meng’s release broke, a White House official told Reuters President Donald Trump did not know about a U.S. request for her extradition from Canada.

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Meanwhile Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said officers who arrested her as she was changing planes in Vancouver had acted on their own.

President Trump sits across from Chinese President Xi Jinping during a working dinner after the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 1. Last week, Chinese and US officials wrapped up three days of trade talks in Beijing aimed at resolving the tariff fight

President Trump sits across from Chinese President Xi Jinping during a working dinner after the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 1. Last week, Chinese and US officials wrapped up three days of trade talks in Beijing aimed at resolving the tariff fight

President Trump sits across from Chinese President Xi Jinping during a working dinner after the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 1. Last week, Chinese and US officials wrapped up three days of trade talks in Beijing aimed at resolving the tariff fight

A cargo ship at a port in Qingdao in east China's Shandong province. China's trade growth slowed in 2018 as a tariff battle with Washington heated up

A cargo ship at a port in Qingdao in east China's Shandong province. China's trade growth slowed in 2018 as a tariff battle with Washington heated up

A cargo ship at a port in Qingdao in east China’s Shandong province. China’s trade growth slowed in 2018 as a tariff battle with Washington heated up

‘I can assure everyone that we are a country (with) an independent judiciary,’ Trudeau told a tech conference in Montreal. ‘And they took this decision without any political involvement or interference’. 

The news related to Huawei and Meng Wanzhou took place amid the negotiation of a trade war truce between China and the United States. 

Last week, Chinese and U.S. officials wrapped up three days of trade talks in Beijing aimed at resolving a tariff fight that threatens to chill global growth.

The two sides will ‘maintain close contact,’ China’s Ministry of Commerce said Thursday, adding that the talks ‘enhanced mutual understanding and laid the foundation for addressing each other’s concerns.’  

Officials from both countries discussed ‘ways to achieve fairness, reciprocity and balance in trade relations,’ the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said in a statement.

‘The talks also focused on China’s pledge to purchase a substantial amount of agricultural, energy, manufactured, and other products and services from the United States,’ the USTR said.

The meetings in China were the first face-to-face negotiations since Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Buenos Aires in December and agreed a 90-day truce in a trade war that has disrupted the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars of goods. 

Schellenberg is the principal criminal of an international drug ring, Chinese court says

The Dalian Intermediate Court claims that Schellenberg was a member of an international drug gang and he attempted to help smuggle 222.035 kilograms (489.5 pounds) of crystal meth from China to Australia between October and December of 2014.

According to the court, Schellenberg received funding through two Chinese bank accounts controlled by three suspects – named by the court as ‘Kaimu’, ‘Shidifeng’ and ‘Mr Zhou’ – who are still at large.

In mid-October, 2014, a translator known as Xu was hired by Kaimu to receive 222 bags of crystal meth and 20 tonnes of plastic capsules in a warehouse in Dalian.

The Dalian court said Schellenberg, who was detained in December 2014, played a 'key part' in an international drug trafficking syndicate

The Dalian court said Schellenberg, who was detained in December 2014, played a 'key part' in an international drug trafficking syndicate

The Dalian court said Schellenberg, who was detained in December 2014, played a ‘key part’ in an international drug trafficking syndicate

The drugs had been sent from Guangdong in southern China by Mr Zhou and a fifth accomplice named by the court as Jian Xiangrong, who has been caught and sentenced to life in prison.

On November 19, Schellenberg was appointed by Kaimu to meet Xu in Dalian and conceal the drugs in tyres to transport to Australia. Schellenberg then instructed Xu to take him to buy the tyres and second-hand containers needed to complete the task.

The drugs were scheduled to be shipped to Australia in November, but after assessing the workload, Schellenberg changed the shipping date to December.

Schellenberg then called a sixth suspect Mai Qingxiang on November 27 to look for new warehouse to store the drugs. Mai has been caught and jailed for two years.

The police were alerted after Xu called them on November 29.

Schellenberg discovered that he had been outed and attempted to flee from Dalian to Thailand on December 1.

He was caught by the police at 1pm on December 1 in Guangzhou during a stopover.

The court considers Schellenberg the principal criminal and says that the case has brought ‘serious harm’ to the society. 

Schellenberg can appeal against the decision within the next 10 days to the High People’s Court of Liaoning Province.  

Schellenberg denied the allegations during the trial today. 

In an opening statement, Schellenberg said he had come to China after travelling through Southeast Asia, including Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

He said a friend recommended a man named Xu Qing as a translator and he was swept up in what has turned out to be an international drug trafficking syndicate.

‘This is a case about about a man named King (Xu Qing), he is an international drug smuggler and a liar,’ Schellenberg told the court, accusing Xu of setting him up.

Schellenberg claimed the drug deal was masterminded by Khamla Wong, a Canadian who was arrested in Thailand in 2016 on drug charges.

Prosecutors brought in Xu as a witness, who in almost two hours of testimony never once turned to look at Schellenberg.

When pressed on details, he frequently said he could not remember and had to refer to a written statement, including when Schellenberg questioned him about 180,000 yuan he was purportedly given.

Two other Chinese men have been involved in this case – one was sentenced to life imprisonment, another handed a suspended death sentence.

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