PHNOM PENH - A Cambodian court sentenced three foreigners from Australia, France and Nigeria to between 23 and 27 years in prison on Wednesday for attempted heroin smuggling.
Australian woman Yoshe Ann Taylor, 41 and French woman Charlene Savarino, 19, were arrested at Phnom Penh International Airport with 2.2 kilos (4.8 pounds) of heroin in a backpack in September last year. Precious Chineme Nwoko, 23, from Nigeria was arrested the same month at his rental home in the capital. Judge Kor Vandy at Phnom Penh Municipal Court said the three defendants were guilty of "cross-border smuggling of illegal drugs".
Savarino was sentenced to 25 years in jail, while Taylor was handed 23 years and Nwoko received a 27-year jail term. They declined to comment when asked about the court ruling. Two other Nigerian men, who remain at large, were sentenced in their absence to 27 years in jail each for their involvement in the case.
During their trial last month, the two women said the backpack belonged to Savarino's boyfriend Nwoko and that he was sending it to an unidentified man in Australia. Cambodia has become a popular smuggling route for narcotics, particularly methamphetamines and heroin, since neighbouring Thailand toughened its stance on illegal drugs in 2002.
Cambodia has ramped up its war on drugs in recent years, resulting in hundreds of arrests, some involving senior officials.