US Navy sailors jailed in Australia on drug smuggling charges

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

USS Boxer

Two sailors from the ship USS Boxer, and a Canadian man living on Queensland's Gold Coast have been sentenced to jail for bringing seven kilos of the drug commonly known as 'ice' (methamphetamine), valued at about A$1 million, into Australia in June last year.

A court in Townsville, Queensland heard that seven kilograms of methamphetamine were hidden in the radar compartment of the USS Boxer. ABC radio reported that the drugs were taken ashore by sailor Andrew Labanon and handed to Chief Petty Officer Daniel Maio at a Townsville motel. Maio had arranged to pay Labanon $10,000 to bring the drugs ashore when the Boxer was visiting Townsville. Maio and a third man, Iranian-born Canadian Mehdi Mohammadi, attempted to travel to the Gold Coast before Australian police arrested them.

Maio, changed his plea to guilty during the trial, and was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years in jail, with a non-parole period of six years. Judge Kerry Cullinane sentenced Labanon to six years jail, He was ordered to serve at least three years before being eligible for parole. Mohammadi was given a sentence of 14 years, with a minimum non-parole period of seven years.

A task force of more than 20 undercover federal police agents intercepted the drug smuggling operation last June. Australian Federal Police (AFP) welcomed the jail terms. AFP spokesman Jason Byrnes said: "We've taken almost seven kilos of ice off Australian streets..."

He said the Australian police were "very satisfied with the three convictions and this was another great example of federal police with Customs' support targeting main offenders of drug crime against Australia and Australians."

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