- Sydney man Peter Gardner faces execution in China for drugs
- The former building worker will soon learn if he will get the death penalty
- Drug smugglers face the firing squad for more than 50g of heroin or ice
- Gardner was carrying a massive 30kg of ice in superglued suitcases
- The 26-year-old told a Chinese court he thought he was carrying steroids
- Gardner flew to China last year with Sydney girl Kalynda Davis, 22
- After secret negotiations Ms Davis was freed and flew home in 2014
Sydney construction worker Peter Gardner will soon learn if he is to face death by firing squad for trying to smuggle $25 million of methamphetamine in suitcases through Guangzhou Airport in China.
Gardner, 26, has been in a Chinese prison since he was arrested in November 2014 trying to board a flight to Australia with his then girlfriend, 22-year-old Sydney woman Kalynda Davis.
The pair, who had met via the dating app Tinder, were arrested after airport officials found 30kg of ‘ice’ packed in 60 ziplock bags inside two suitcases which had been superglued shut.
Last year, Mr Gardner faced trial where he pleaded not guilty to smuggling ice. He is due to hear the verdict and his sentence in April, Fairfax News reported.
Mr Gardner and Ms Davis made international headlines after her father, former NSW police officer Larry Davis, flew to Guangzhou and with the help of Australian Foreign Affairs minister Julie Bishop, managed to secure his daughter’s release.
Strictly confidential diplomatic talks convinced Chinese officials that Kalynda Davis had known nothing about the suitcase contents and saved her from the possible death penalty.
Ms Davis, who had been held in Guangzhou women’s detention centre where she was shackled and had her long blonde hair cut into a prison bob, was freed and and returned home to Sydney with her father on December 9, 2014.
Consular efforts on behalf of Mr Gardner, who had lived in Sydney for 18 years but was still a New Zealand citizen, were unsuccessful.
The 30kg of methamphetamine found in Mr Gardner’s suitcases was the largest single haul of ice headed overseas ever seized by Guangzhou customs.
Mr Gardner told a Chinese court during that trial he had believed he was carrying steroids, which were legal.
A panel of three judges heard that he had previously made a journey in September 2014 to bring back the legal, performance-enhancing peptides.
He returned in November with Ms Davis after the pair had travelled to New Zealand and then flown to Guangzhou where they spent three days in the city before boarding the flight to Sydney.
He said he had paid his supplier around $13,000 for a peptides and tanning agents which were popular among Sydney football players and bodybuilders.
Gardner told the court he was assured by an Australian man named ‘James’ that the packages contained steroids.
Gardner said the man told him to go to Guangzhou’s Hilton Hotel where he was to be greeted by two Chinese men.
The men dropped off the two black suitcases containing the drugs at the hotel where Gardner and Davis were staying, just hours before their flight home.
Each bag was zipped shut and sealed with superglue, which meant Mr Gardner hadn’t checked the contents, but he was unconcerned.
‘It should have been peptides,’ he said. ‘I was stupid. I thought it was so easy. I got ahead of myself,’ a tearful Mr Gardner told the hearing which was attended by his parents, Russell Gardner and Sandra Cornelius.
Prosecutors rejected his argument, saying it was ‘against common sense’ that Gardner would not check the bags for his goods having spent the money he claimed.
Further, his DNA was found on the packaging around the methamphetamine. Gardner’s lawyer Richard Zhang said customs officials had contaminated the evidence.
‘I’m really sorry, I really regret it… I have broken the law and there’s no getting out of it,’ Mr Gardner said.
Mr Gardner is among at least eight Australians detained in southern China after allegedly being caught up in international drug networks, against which the Chinese Government has launched a crackdown over the last 18 months.
Chinese authorities have recorded a sharp increase in the arrest of foreigners involved in drug crimes, with figures from 2013 showing that a total of 1,963 foreign drug suspects were arrested and 5.9 tonnes of drugs confiscated.
The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s narcotics control bureau put down the increase down to the cheapness of drugs like ice in provinces like Guangdong, where foreign drugs gangs were active.
Many of the incarcerated foreigners are African nationals, but among them are inmates from many other countries, including the Australians who are being assisted by the Australian Consul General in Guangzhou.
Guangzhou is the capital of Guangdong province, which is notorious for being the meth manufacturing hub of China.
On the streets of Guangzhou, where Mr Gardner and Ms Davis spent three days in November 2014, African sellers commonly approach foreigners to trade drugs, a source told Daily Mail Australia.
Following Mr Gardner’s arrest, his former school friends described him as a gentle, friendly guy. He has an unblemished criminal record in NSW, apart from a drink driving charge.
‘He is a really great guy, really caring, nice and softly spoken, I guess he just got tangled in a bad way of life,’ one friend from Richmond High School said.
‘Every time I talked to him he was always genuine and never seemed like he would get involved in that.’
Following his 2014 mercy dash to collect his daughter from her Chinese prison and fly home, Larry Davis described his the relief and the horror.
‘When I saw her for the first time, I just collapsed,’ he told the Western Weekender. ‘She kept saying “I’m sorry Dad, I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it”.
‘Her and I are close, as close as any father and daughter could be. I never once thought that she had done anything wrong. When we hit the tarmac in Sydney, we both just cried.’