Friday, 26 September 2008

Mental illness cuts ecstasy smuggler's term

A man facing up to 25 years in jail for one of the largest seizures of ecstasy ever recorded in Australia has received a reduced sentence because of mental illness.

Zachariah O'Brien, 36, was found to have been suffering from bipolar disorder when he and Kings Cross drug dealer Robert Drury, 58, imported $200 million worth of ecstasy tablets hidden in the walls of a baking oven from Germany.

Both men were arrested by federal police on November 13 in 2004 when they picked up the oven containing 820 kilograms of the drug from a storage centre at Wetherill Park in Sydney's south-west.

O'Brien, from the NSW north coast village of New Italy, and Drury were charged with conspiring to import a large commercial quantity of ecstasy and with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

In June 2006, Drury was sentenced to 18 years' jail for his part in the importation with a minimum non-parole term of 11 years.

During this time it was alleged the pair obtained the drug from a Netherlands-based crime syndicate which has been since dismantled with convictions against three Dutch men and two other men in Belgium.

After spending almost four years in jail on remand since his arrest and conviction in a trial in August last year, O'Brien came before Judge Greg Woods in the Downing Centre District Court today for sentencing.

In sentencing O'Brien to serve 12 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of eight years, Judge Woods took into account the mental health issue.

He also took into account the time Woods had already spent in custody and said that period should be deducted from his non-parole sentence. Woods will be eligible for release in 2012.

The seizure in 2004 was regarded at the time as the largest ever shipment to have been recovered by Australian Federal Police and customs in Australia.

The oven ecstasy haul is now ranked by federal police as the third largest seizure of the drug after 1.2 tons was seizure in Melbourne in 2005 and last year 4.4 tons of ecstasy was recovered in Melbourne last year.

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