An elderly German man who was duped into delivering millions of dollars of meth into Australia by an international drugs rings has been jailed for five years.
Wilfried Van Duhren, 70, was a ‘cleanskin’ German citizen who ran a photography store from Brandenburg.
He was then targeted in March last year by a person named Karen Thompson, who claimed she had been left a US$10.5million inheritance from a long-lost relative.
However, to access the inheritance, Thompson claimed she needed to deliver a suitcase full of gifts to Sydney.
Thompson claimed to be a representative of the Royal Court of London and British Ministry of Finance and persuaded Van Duhren she was legitimate over a series of emails.
She eventually persuaded him to travel to Sydney, via Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, where he picked up two suitcases filled with eight kilos of meth.
When Van Duhren arrived in Sydney, he quickly realised there was no inheritance – and he was then arrested by Border Force officials.
Wilfried Van Duhren, 70, was a ‘cleanskin’ German citizen who ran a photography store from Brandenburg
Van Duhren told them he had no knowledge of the drugs but he was charged with importing a large commercial quantity of a controlled substance.
The German spent months in prison, unable to speak English and suffering from health conditions.
This week a judge imprisoned him for five and a half years, with a non-parole period of two years, nine months, according to the Daily Telegraph.
His lawyer told court that Van Duhren is ’embarrassed’ to have fallen for the ruse but accepts he was guilty and reckless.
Van Duhren claimed he did his best to make sure the gift and inheritance were legitimate and questioned Thompson via email.
‘I assume we won’t have any problem in relation to the delivery of the gifts,’ he wrote. ‘This is just to be conducive to doing business – is it legal?’
Thompson assured him it was legal and gave him and his wife $700 before arranging for them to travel to Sydney.
His wife Vera was also arrested upon their arrival and spent months in jail before having the charges dropped.
She later returned to Germany, with the court being told she ‘cried daily’.
He was then targeted in March last year by a person named Karen Thompson. Thompson claimed to be a representative of the Royal Court of London and British Ministry of Finance
The court heard from several friends and family members of Van Duhren, who wrote letters describing him as a ‘kind, helpful and hardworking man’.
‘He’s embarrassed that he’s been duped and that he fell for an unbelievable ruse,’ his defence lawyer told the court.
‘(But) he accepts his guilt on the basis of recklessness … though he was clearly being directed by callous individuals that were involved in an elaborate and sophisticated scam.’
Judge Mark Williams agreed Van Duhren had no knowledge he was importing drugs and acted on ‘false hope’.
‘He was targeted due to his good character and age,’ he said. ‘He was blinded by the hope of financial reward founded on the naive or reckless belief he would receive millions in inheritance, rather than hope he would be paid for acting as mule for a drug syndicate.’
Judge Williams also pointed out how multiple elderly and vulnerable people had landed in Australian prisons after unknowingly acting as drug mules.
A tearful Van Duhren apologised for his role and told the court he was relieved the drugs never reached the street and ruined more lives.
He will be eligible for release in 2025.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk
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