The Political Sacrifice of Schapelle Corby


By Paul Gregoire and Ugur Nedim

Schapelle Corby’s parole period is coming to an end. After spending almost a decade behind bars in Indonesia on a conviction of trafficking cannabis – a drug that is now legal in eight US states – Ms Corby will finally be allowed to return home to Australia later this month.

Ms Corby was diagnosed with severe mental health issues in 2009, after years of suffering the ravages of Bali’s Kerobokan prison, from which she was released in February 2014. But the true horror of Corby’s story is that she’s spent close to 13 years in exile for a crime many believe she did not commit.

That’s the argument presented in the documentary Expendable: The Political Sacrifice of Schapelle Corby. Some will label it a conspiracy theory, but the case made by a group of academics from around the globe known as the ‘Expendable Project’ is compelling to many others.

On 8 October 2004, Ms Corby arrived in Bali on Qantas flight AO 7829 from Sydney, after an initial flight from Brisbane. On arrival, Indonesian authorities found 4.2 kilograms of marijuana in the 27-year-old’s body board bag.

Ms Corby was subsequently sentenced by Denpasar District Court to 20 years in prison on 27 May 2005.

The Expendable Project spent three years researching her case, reaching the conclusion that the Australian government was complicit in covering up her innocence, turning all its “organs of state upon one of its own citizens for political expediency.”

The reasons for the cover up

Corby’s case came just a few years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks changed global views on airport security. The documentary makes it clear that it was a priority for the federal government to hide criminal conduct that was rife at Australian airports.

In order to save face and maintain relations with Indonesia, the Howard government is alleged to have concealed information, enlisting the services of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and shaping public opinion by using the ABC.

Those boys in blue

In March 2005, John Patrick Ford, an inmate from Port Phillip prison, claimed to have heard multiple conversations about baggage handlers being involved in a drug smuggling ring, and that one bag of drugs bound for Sydney ended up in Denpasar.

Weeks before Ms Corby was found guilty, AFP police commissioner Mick Keelty publicly declared, “There is very little intelligence to suggest that baggage handlers are using innocent people to traffic heroin or other drugs between states.”

The commissioner’s assertion was far from the truth. At the time of Corby’s arrest, the AFP and NSW police were in fact conducting Operation Mocha: an investigation into the role of baggage handlers moving drugs between airports for crime syndicates.

Three weeks before Corby’s sentencing, Ray Cooper, the AFP’s former head of operations of internal investigations, told the Nine Network that it was well-known passengers were being used as “mules” to shift drugs between domestic airports.

Mr Cooper said the AFP had failed to properly investigate the allegations, as serving police had been involved.

Indeed, the head of Operation Mocha, then-NSW Crime Commission (NSWCC) chief of investigations Mark Standen, was arrested in 2008 and subsequently imprisoned for plotting to import 300 kilograms of pseudoephedrine, a precursor used to make ice.

Mr Keelty made his public statement despite being fully aware that Operation Mocha was on foot. It was a comment that then-president of the Law Council of Australia, John North, said could jeopardise Corby’s chances of a fair trial.

Evidence lost and destroyed

The Expendable Project also highlighted the fact that despite an Australian being found with over four kilograms of allegedly home grown cannabis at an international airport, the AFP failed to launch an investigation into the matter.

The Corby house was not raided, and no arrests were made in Australia.

The researchers have documented how Schapelle repeatedly requested that the cannabis be forensically tested and fingerprinted. The AFP publicly claimed that they had offered to carry out this testing, but in fact never did so.

Corby’s lawyers revealed that Bali police had asked for the AFP’s help with the prosecution, but Australian police refused to assist. And in March 2006, Bali prosecutors burnt all the physical evidence used to convict Corby.

Corby’s defence lawyers also requested CCTV footage from Brisbane domestic airport, and Sydney’s domestic and international airports, but the AFP told them there was none available.

A bungled delivery

In July 2005, William Moss publicly stated that he was meant to collect the drugs found in Corby’s luggage from Sydney airport, and that they were never intended to arrive in Bali. Moss was subsequently ridiculed in the Australian press.

However, in 2012, the Expendable Project published minutes from a meeting of the NSWCC, which revealed that the commission had a recording of Moss discussing the marijuana collection with John Dunks.

Mr Dunks was a known associate of corrupt NSW police detective Christopher Laycock.

A top level cover up

Schapelle Corby’s appeal took place in July 2005. The researchers of the documentary obtained evidence in 2010 that the AFP and federal government received information around the time of the appeal that may have led to Corby’s release.

A briefing note from the AFP to then-Australian minister for justice and customs Christopher Ellison dated 6 July 2005 outlines that Corby’s body board bag had never been scanned before being put onto the flight. This was despite it being mandatory for all baggage to be scanned.

The justice minister then sent a letter to Mr Keelty stating that this information “may be a relevant factor in any consideration as to whether there was any interference with the bag.” Mr Ellison ends the letter by asking the police commissioner whether he had informed anyone else about this information.

However, Ms Corby’s defence team was simply told there was no baggage data available. They were never informed that the body board bag was the only piece of baggage that was not scanned on the flight, and that it had been treated differently by airport staff prior before it left Australia.

A cold betrayal

This potentially determinative evidence was withheld from Ms Corby’s lawyers. It was never presented as evidence and did not come before the court. And yet, some of Australia’s top officials were aware it existed, and that it could change the outcome of her appeal.

As Ms Corby prepares fly back to Australia on 27 May, she may very well be looking forward to seeing those who have supported her from the start. But, with Australian authorities having failed her at the highest level, it may be an uneasy return.


previous post: Mental Health in the Social Media Age

next post: New Rules for Flying Drones

Author Image

About Sydney Criminal Lawyers

Sydney Criminal Lawyers is Sydney's Leading Criminal Defence firm, Delivering Outstanding Results in all Criminal and Driving cases. Going to Court? Call (02) 9261 8881 for a Free Consultation.

12 comments

  1. John Whitticker

    At last someone is reporting this. There are thousands of documents there which prove what happened, yet our gutter media pretend they do not exist. Instead they smear and fabricate. This is an absolute scandal.

  2. Sharon Pike

    I Always knew Schapelle Corby Was/Is Innocent..Never made any sense at all from day one..Once you research instead of believing everything the media report It All falls into place..Schapelle Is definitely Innocent..Disgusting that an Innocent Person can be stitched up to protect the Guilty in high places..The Expendable Project = The Truth 👍

  3. Dr Adrian Bradford

    The Australian Federal Police have steadfastly maintained over the past 12 years that the crew of baggage handlers who smuggled drugs at Sydney International Airport did NOT place the 4.1 Kg package of cannabis in Schapelle Corby’s luggage on the day she flew to Bali. Such a statement can only come from an investigation which produced no intelligence linking the two events. For many years, I and many people have blindly believed the AFP. The AFP keeps documents on all their activities and investigations. In 2016 I commenced a FOI application seeking access to these very documents so as to ascertain how the AFP determined there was no link.

    I was absolutely gobsmacked when it was revealed there were no documents.

    This response left me no choice but to seek an external review by the Australian Information Commissioner (AIC), who confirmed there were no documents held by the Australian Federal Police.

    http://www..austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/AICmr/2016/74.html (Bradford v Australian Federal Police)

    The AFP submitted to the AIC: “Dr Bradford’s request is premised on an investigation being run into baggage handlers in Sydney, arising out of Ms Corby’s case .… there was no such investigation, and accordingly no documents to produce.”

    But such an investigation was requested by Ms Corby. Documents released under FOI show that a letter dated December 7th 2004 was sent to the AFP, through DFAT, formally requesting and specifically asking the AFP to investigate baggage handlers at Sydney airport.

    Before you think that the documents I sought access to were too historical to exist, consider that complementary FOI applications made in 2014 and another in 2016 showed there there hundreds of “hits” pertaining to the 2005 investigation into Brisbane baggage handlers and whether they placed the drugs in her luggage AND thousands of “hits” pertaining to the 2005 investigation into Sydney baggage handlers smuggling cocaine out of Sydney airport.

    There really NEVER was an investigation, despite what the AFP has been saying.

    I have over the past 12 years made numerous FOI applications some of which have extraordinary outcomes: there is a 10 minute overlap regarding Ms Corby’s luggage and the 2 luggage pieces with drugs coming from South America. This overlap is confined to a particular location at the airport, not the airport generally.

    One of those two luggage pieces I contested in the AAT to have contained the cannabis. A document released to me under FOI gave the dimensions of this police exhibit but my request to have photographs released was denied solely due to an Interpol arrest warrant still existing. Curiously, Channel 7 broadcast pictures of one of these cases and it was large enough to fit the cannabis – as demonstrated in the AAT hearing!

    In other words, the case that contained the cannabis upon arrival into Australia before the cannabis was transferred into Ms Corby’s luggage does exist.

    And the AAT heard arguments as to how and why that transfer occurred.

    Now, where are the proper journalists when you need one …

  4. jack

    Its surprising then that when Mercedes Corby gave a short interview 3yrs ago when Schapelle was finally parolled in Bali she was asked where the dope came from? She said she had no idea it could have been planted in Bali. She later gave a tearful apology as this insult to the Balinese being involved could have jeopardised Schapelle’s parole.
    Why didn’t she say anything about knowing the bag not being scanned or pollies withholding evidence or the Mocha operation / baggage handling problems in Australian airports none of this conspiracy stuff was mentioned .

    Mercedes doesn’t believe this nonsense either.

  5. jack

    Dr Bradford has a problem though. The space bags (vacuum bags) the dope was packed in were made in America but tracked through a Melbourne warehouse. oops. Did a South American buy them in Melbourne then fly to South America pack dope and cocaine and then fly back to Australia. Doubt it.

  6. jack

    The boogie board bag wasn’t the only bag not scanned it was oversized and subject to manual scanning the suitcases weren’t. There’s no data for the other oversized passengers bags on the flight it might be significant it might not be.
    Even if found to be the only one in thousands not scanned a prosecutor would say someone in Corby’s syndicate working at the airport moved it passed the scanner so it still doesn’t help her case.
    John Howard sent a letter to the Bali court explaining the problems with baggage handlers and ongoing investigations there was no govt. cover up.

  7. Dr Adrian Bradford

    Sorry to disappoint you Jack, but no-one knows where the Space Bag vacuum bags came from. Corby requested on December 7th 2004 for the bags to be forensically tested for place of manufacture and the distribution company, and the year the bags were made and distributed (as well as other tests). Sadly, these tests were never conducted. Therefore to say they were “tracked” is both misleading and false. It is Eamon Duff’s book, “Sins of the Father”, which mentions the Melbourne connection to a warehouse, but again, sadly, that book was ordered to be pulped due to its brazen lies. It is worth noting that I argued in the AAT that the Space Bag vacuum bags that contained the cannabis were devoid of any child safety labels in contravention of sale of goods under AS/NZS ISO 8124-1:2002 clause 4.10 (c) . This argument went unopposed by the AFP’s lawyer. The argument that the vacuum bags were purchased in South America is plausible and valid.

    Documents released under FOI demonstrate that it was only the details of the boogie board bag bar-code (and not the bar-codes of the other suitcases) which were missing from the airport database of luggage cleared for departure. Section 6 of the Air Navigation (Checked Baggage) Regulations 2000 stipulates that “terminal operators must ensure that all items of checked baggage that are processed through the terminal facility are screened and cleared before the items are authorised to be loaded on board international aircraft.” The fact that the bar-code is missing from the database is indicative that the bag was improperly handled. Documents released under FOI illustrate that the AFP knew of this in July 2005 when Corby’s legal team were desperately seeking new evidence in her appeal, but the AFP simply failed to pass this information on.

    Section 12 of the AN (CB) Regulations 2000 (in effect when Corby traveled) stipulates that terminal operators and their employees are not authorised to open a checked baggage item without the consent of the owner or the person who is entitled to possession of the item. Clearly this rules out manual searching. However, if you really believe that manual searching took place, then ipso facto, whoever did the searching would have found the package of cannabis. And the fact that they didn’t report it is indicative of corrupt behaviour.

    I am however very curious of you stating this hypothetical, “a prosecutor would say someone n Corby’s syndicate working at the airport moved it passed the scanners”. This is a comment section on a blog run and owned by Sydney Criminal Lawyers. I can assure you that they would know whether a prosecutor would say such a thing. In fact a prosecutor could quote “War and Peace” from start to end, but that might not have any bearing on the case at hand, or they could sing “My Favourite Things” to the tune of “Doe Re Mi”. It is irrelevant what you try and suggest to me (and others) what a prosecutor might say or do. It is the judgement handed down by his Honour which matters most. And we all know that judicial proceedings are bound by Section 141 of the Evidence Act 1995. I hope I have impressed upon you that with all the information I have written and linked to, there is sufficient for you to believe that there is reasonable doubt as to Ms Corby’s guilt, and thus her conviction should be quashed.

    I do encourage you to write FOI applications to seek the truth. I did, and initially I thought Ms Corby was guilty.

  8. jack

    Dr Bradford . A baggage handler didn’t take a 4.2kg slab of dope shaped like a boogie board under his arm into work through his own security and with all his co workers watching. HE could of drove it from Brisbane to Sydney there is no border crossing. The customs officer testified to the exact shape and size of the dope to fit the bag. Corbys own defence lawyers Erwin Siregar and last week on 7.30 report Hotman Hutapea both said the same thing if someone added it at the airport how can it be the exact same size as her bag? and how could they not notice the extra weight 4kg when the bag was retrieved in Bali?
    The customers officers both testified that she was trying to stop them opening the bag no no I have some…. Custom officers don’t get a bonus for the conviction there is no incentive to lie.
    This is a straight forward case shaped and sized to the bag took time and was done before it got to the airport they didn’t notice the extra weight because they put it in there and the customs officers testimony of her avoidance on inspection.

    No need to mention the SA drug dealers who said they supplied it had photos with her and drinking with her family and were in the documentary at the time of the trial saying “”I’ll organize some smoke for next week”” or Tony Lewis the next door neighbor and best buddy busted with 5kg of dope one month before the trial.

    1000’s of 1000’s of foi’s and cables is just a throw it up in the air tactic to try and confuse the gullible.

  9. jack

    One further point, your group keeps putting forward that her bags were checked in underweight then found to be overweight on the Qantas system. Therefore dope was added after.

    Schapelle and her two girlfriends checked in 3 suitcases and the boogie board at a collective weight of 65kg. Your weird theory is there was no excess baggage charge? They were 1.66kg over per person big deal. last time I flew I was 3kg over no charge. You would be laughed out of court.

    Even if they checked in at 60kg so (no charges) if a baggage handler added 4kg of dope how would it change to 65kg? You reckon drug smugglers have access to amend passengers records? and why would they bother to change it even if they did, the argument is ridiculous.

    Then you have the wrong notion that if only the lawyers had known this they could have used it in her case. Well they did know it they got this info 4 months before the trial it was of no use as the bags weren’t reweighed in Bali it was no help. and this is one of your 30 points that no one can refute god help us.

  10. Dr Adrian Bradford

    Jack, I fully understand your posts. I hope you have fully understood mine! And if you have, you would have alluded to the fact that I am stating the cannabis was on the flight from South America. Documents released under FOI do not rule this out; and I have argued in the AAT that this is how the cannabis entered the airport system. It is also the position that many people who believe Ms Corby to be wrongfully convicted are now taking. Consequently, you are correct: a baggage handler did not take a slab of dope under his arm and enter an airport environment. So any assertion you make that the cannabis was in Brisbane is actually incorrect. In fact, there is no intelligence to state that it ever was in Brisbane; only innuendo dragged up by the media – which has been proven to be incorrect.

    Speaking of the media, there is continued proof that they make up stories about Corby. Only last week the Sunday Inquirer announced Schapelle was dead; and a couple of days ago it was announced that she would appear on Celebrity Big Brother UK, albeit alive! (Halleluiah!) The media have been caught out broadcasting fake news. And this is 2017. Can you imagine the ridiculous amount of fake news they printed and broadcasted about her and her family back in 2005? No wonder there were defamation cases.

    As for the shape of the rectangular package of cannabis fitting the rectangular shape of the body board, and given they are about the same size, then this is one thing you should surely be able to debunk on your own. If you can’t here is an excellent clue: they are the same shape and same size. Got it? Clearly not evidence or proof of drug trafficking, but I have always been intrigued as to what the prosecutors thought the shape the rectangular package of cannabis should have been if they were ever to have considered she was a victim of foul play!

    It is well known that two of the Customs officers lied in Court. The officer who discovered the cannabis was asked if the evidence displayed was exactly how it was when discovered. The evidence on display had the inner bag rolled up with duct tape and duct tape put across the hole he cut, and the inner bag was inverted. (There is a photograph that captures this exact moment). He said “Yes”. But the prosecutor knew this was wrong and didn’t correct him. The second officer who’s English was of low proficiency testified as to the conversation his colleague had with Corby even though they were talking in English – he was also too far away from the conversation. As to the comment Schapelle said “No, no I have some ….” is completely nonsensical, particularly for a person fluent in English. What is the rest of the sentence? Perhaps she was about to say “I have something in my luggage that doesn’t belong to me” but was interrupted. And the notion she attempted to stop the officers from opening her bag was highly disputed. But anyhow, these points you raise are so 2005; and all have been debunked in one way or another and many times over. An example of this is the extra weight argument. It was her brother who carried the body board bag in Brisbane and the strap was cut when they found it in Bali. Her brother dragged it to the customs desk. It was here that Schapelle lifted it for the first time. Would you really remember the weight of a luggage item which you haven’t touched for 9 hours, especially given you were not suspecting to be a victim of foul play?

    As for “my group” and “my weird theory”, I think you have me mixed up with someone from the Expendable Project. Yes, I am familiar with them; and yes I have pointed out to their administrator that mistake they are making about the excess charge. I agree with what you say. It is entirely up to the discretion of the airline if they wish to charge that fee. For groups travelling a domestic leg first then an international leg the fee is usually waived.

    So now I have questions for you. You seem to have an excellent knowledge of her case, particular events that occurred and are willing to post publicly. So what is it that you are searching for? Are you trying to find something that will change your mind about her conviction? And what is stopping you from accepting that she is a victim of foul play?

    As I stated in the previous comment, I thought she was guilty, but changed my mind.

    You can too.

  11. John Potter

    Whoever you are Jack, do yourself a favour and stop misrepresenting and distorting the data published on the Expendable Project’s website. What they have put on their is clear cut. It is factual material. You clearly have an agenda here and a strong almost desperate desire to discredit it, hence your irrational posts flaying at everything in sight. This is FOI data, not a theory, deal with it..

    To Mr Bradford, I see no mistake there. The weight of the system was 65kg, meaning there should have been a charge for the excess 5kg. There wasn’t. Why not? Either it was checked in underweight, or for some unknown reason the $170 excess was waived, or the records were amended. Those are the only three possibilities, and all the Expendable Project has done is to point them out. You are the one putting theories to it. They have simply published evidence. I think you would be better served using this evidence, rather than falsely using words like ‘mistake’, which come across as arrogant and may cause offence.

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>