M'sian mother & daughter wrongly jailed for 4 months after police mistook tea for drugs

Even after the police knew about their mistake, they did not inform the duo.

Faris Alfiq | November 23, 2021, 04:32 PM

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A Malaysian mother and daughter pair were imprisoned in Australia for four months as they were wrongly charged with importing drugs into the country, Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reported.

The duo spent their time in jail even after the police learnt that there were no drugs in the packagings seized.

Tea wrongly identified as amphetamines

Connie Chong Vun Pui and her daughter, Melanie Lim San Yan, were importing 25 kg of brown sugar ginger tea (Jiu Ji Gong) to sell for a profit of AUD90 (S$88) per box, SMH reported.

However, on Jan. 17, the Australian Border Force (ABF) at Sydney Airport seized two of their shipments as they were wrongly identified as amphetamines.

Following the seizure, the ABF tracked down the shipping address and raided the women's home and found more of the alleged drugs, 7 news reported.

Both Chong and Lim were then charged with commercial drug supply, carrying a sentence of life imprisonment, SMH reported.

In the course of the investigation, they were not granted bail.

Police knew the mistake

During a hearing on Nov. 16, the court heard that within weeks of the seizure, the police knew that there were some issues with the drug identification, but they did not pass on the information to Chong and Lim's defence team, leaving them imprisoned.

In April, an ABF officer informed detective Tara Conaghan that their laboratory results had determined that there were no prohibited substances in the packaging.

"Mate, in a nutshell, we cannot take from this ABF result that the sample contains or does not contain phenmetrazine," the email read, as reported by SMH.

According to the officer, phenmetrazine was only identified as the fourth most-likely substance in the seized products, after sugar, sucrose and powdered sugar.

During a cross-examination by Chong's lawyer, Conaghan remained silent when asked why she did not inform both Chong and Lim that the package did not contain any prohibited items.

Sued prosecution

Both mother and daughter were released in May, but their charges were only withdrawn in August after authorities confirmed there were no prohibited ingredients.

According to SMH, the duo are now suing the prosecution for legal costs.

However, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has refused to pay for their loss.

The next hearing of the case was adjourned to March 2022.

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Top image via Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash and Jiujigong Singapore/Facebook