Detained Drug Smuggler Thought Importing More Drugs Would 'Improve' Situation

Dirichukwu Patrick Nweke conspired to import cocaine into Australia while he was in Villawood detention centre. Image via Sydney Morning News


-- A Nigerian man thrown into Villawood detention centre for drug trafficking believed that trafficking more drugs would help him in his fight to stay in Australia.

Following several failed legal battles and a partner at home struggling to cope with a newborn baby, Dirichukwu Patrick Nweke, 44, turned to facilitating a globe-spanning drug syndicate from inside immigration detention "to improve" his family's situation, a report to the NSW District Court says.

"Mr Nweke became focused on controlling his levels of psychological distress, trying to provide for his struggling partner and new baby as well as funding his legal battle to remain in Australia," the pre-sentence report says. "He viewed illicit activities as means of solving all these problems at that time."

Last month Judge Anthony Townsden sentenced Nweke to 15 years and nine months behind bars for conspiring to import a commercial quantity of cocaine into Australia.

The lengthy jail term comes eight years after he was released from prison for aiding and abetting the importation of 1.9kg of cocaine from New Zealand, concealed in the back and front covers of hardcover children's books, using a drug mule to complete the journey.

According to the report, Nweke moved to Australia in 2000, when he was 26, for a "better life".

"Within five years of his arrival in Australia, however, his marriage had broken down and he had become involved in the illicit drug trade," the report says.

He told the court in 2007 that his younger sister in Nigeria had breast cancer and needed money to pay for the surgery. He said that he had been a bad role model for his children, that he was ashamed of his actions and had accepted responsibility for them.

In a letter to the court, Nweke said that following his first stint in prison he enrolled in training to become a fitness instructor, took an active role in his local church and Igbo community - with whom he talked about integrating into Australian life - and fathered a newborn boy to a second partner.

"It was really a new beginning for me, excited about my newborn baby and getting ready to celebrate my first Christmas as a free man in so many years," he said.

But, after an initial deportation bid was overturned, the federal government again cancelled his visa, throwing him back into detention and prompting a series of appeals through the Federal Court, ending in his application to have his visa reinstated dismissed by the High Court in 2013.

According to the pre-sentence report, Nweke felt an obligation to provide for his new family while trying to juggle legal action protecting him from imminent deportation. In desperation, he turned to what had landed him being fast-tracked out of the country in the first place.

He was briefing immigration lawyers in his fight to stay in Australia, then briefing contacts in Brazil and Nigeria to bring 2.5kg of cocaine into the country via an unsuspecting mule.

Divorcee Peter Martin Strand had been tricked into parting with $400,000 by online scammers masquerading as love interests, including one who claimed to be a United States woman living in Nigeria.

Believing he would recoup his losses by transporting chemicals on behalf of Nigerian officials, the US man embarked on an international trip that ended in him being jailed in Australia.

Having arrived on a flight from Chile, he was transiting through Sydney International Airport to Vanuatu, carrying what was labelled as protein powder when customs officers detained him on April 29, 2014.

The next day police arrested Nweke at Villawood, seizing his many phones. The evidence showed he had been party to 72 calls concerning Strand smuggling the contraband into the country.

He had been involved in travel arrangements, money transfers and even plans on how the cocaine would be packaged once it was to be sent back to Australia from Vanuatu in smaller amounts.

After losing his second trial for a very similar crime, Nweke again reeled out his apologies to his family and the community. "I feel so guilty and ashamed for not being able to look after my children," he said for the second time in his life, much of which has been spent behind bars.