November 7, 2005

NZ, HK citizens in Thai heroin bust

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai police have arrested a New
Zealander, two Hong Kong citizens and a Thai for trafficking
around 88 pounds of heroin, a crime which carries a possible
death penalty.

The heroin, which had an estimated street value of $4
million, was originally smuggled into Thailand from the
notorious Golden Triangle drug-producing region of western
Myanmar and northern Laos.

Police said the Hong Kong duo, aged 42 and 21, took the
heroin in late October to the southwestern resort island of
Phuket, where it was handed over to Kerry Graeme Mitchell, a
49-year-old New Zealander who ultimately intended to sell it in

Mitchell's 38-year-old Thai wife was also arrested.

"Four of them have confessed they had the heroin in their
possession for commercial sale," said Police Major General
Suwat Chanitthikul, Deputy Commissioner at the Narcotics
Suppression Bureau.

"They will be charged with smuggling and attempts to sell
abroad. They could be jailed for life," he said.

Mitchell, who owned a yacht in Phuket, had served time in
jail in Taiwan for heroin trafficking before moving to Bangkok
a few years ago, Suwat said.

He was also traveling on a stolen British passport under
the name of Ian James Newton, police and diplomats said.

"We assume his passport might have been stolen but we do
not know any other details," Suwat said. "Police are
investigating further to try and find the whole network and the
mastermind behind the smuggling operation in Hong Kong and

A spokesman for the New Zealand embassy in Bangkok said
consular officials were visiting Mitchell on Monday and that
the investigation was in the hands of the Thai police.

Several New Zealanders have been convicted of drug offences
in Thailand, the official said, although none has received the
death penalty.