8 May 2015

Accused NZer pleads innocence

9:46 am on 8 May 2015

A New Zealander accused of drug smuggling has tearfully pleaded for his life in a Chinese court, blaming his plight on a shadowy Sydney gang leader.

Peter Gardner

Peter Gardner Photo: SUPPLIED

Peter Gardner, 26, was arrested at Guangzhou international airport last November, carrying bags of nearly 30 kilograms of methamphetamine, known as "ice". His Australian girlfriend Kalynda Davis, arrested at the same time, was freed after two weeks in custody.

If found guilty he could face the death penalty.

The hearing in the southern Chinese city ended with a submission by Peter Gardner that he had been duped by an intermediary who headed a large Australian gang.

As his parents and New Zealand diplomats watched, he told his three judges he was innocent.

"Without a doubt this is the biggest mistake of my life," he said. When he saw the ice being ripped from the bags, he added, "My heart dropped."

Identifying his intermediary only as "James", he offered to help authorities bring the man to justice, saying the syndicate he led engaged in the smuggling of drugs and firearms.

He holds dual Australian and New Zealand nationality but entered China on his New Zealand passport, for what he said was intended to be a pick-up of athletic performance enhancing drugs, arranged by the Sydney intermediary.

Fairfax Media's China correspondent Philip Wen, who is covering the trial, told Morning Report the 26-year-old described how he had smuggled peptides once before, in September, and that had gone smoothly.

"And that contributed to the fact that when it came to November he thought he would be doing the same thing," Mr Wen said.

"He was given very specific instructions by the drug ring to courier what he thought were peptides out of Guangzhou (and) stop on a layover in Sydney on his way to Auckland.

"His assertion was the syndicate had connections with baggage handlers in Sydney who would appropriate the contents of his luggage during that layover."

Peter Gardner said the bags carrying the drugs were checked in under his girlfriend's name, and she was the one arrested, but he went back for her - still believing the bags contained peptides.

The public prosecutor at the trial dismissed the testimony as flawed and inconsistent, however, saying, "His behaviour is against common sense."

His lawyer Craig Tuck said after the hearing that a verdict and sentencing could take weeks or even months.

- Morning Report, Reuters