March 1, 2014

The Corby Defense

The Corby defense, for anyone with a few synapses firing, was always a fantasy.

I'm surprised that some people aren't waiting until Schapelle has served her parole time (assuming she stays out of the Bali prison until 2017). 

Anyhoo.  Numerous are now fessing up to the nonsense that was created to gain public support in Australia, and others are making clear statements in response to accusations that the Corby family made against the Australian government, e.g. police here did offer to DNA test the crop found with her boogie board, which the Corby side of the divide claimed was (if not a baggage handler) from Bali, thus planted on her upon arrival.  Apparently it's more likely to have been from a South Australian crop.  Obviously providing the proof of this was against Corby's interests, so her legal team vigorously declined the help offered from Australian.

As this is likely behind a firewall, the full article (The Australian):
Few crime stories have spawned conspiracy theories as persistent as those that have mushroomed around Schapelle Corby. 
Since being caught with 4.2kg of marijuana in her boogie board bag at Bali’s Denpasar airport, a small band of highly organised supporters have fought hard to depict Corby as an unwitting drug mule, rather than a young woman who was caught cold with a commercial quantity of drugs in a bag she admitted was her own.
Since Corby’s release some of the people behind these theories, and the extended campaign to have her exonerated, have begun to emerge.

One is Steve Addison, a 55-year-old British man who is one of the key figures - perhaps the only figure - behind “Project Expendable”, a web-based archive of hundreds, possibly thousands of documents that Corby supporters say contains crucial evidence of her innocence that has been steadfastly ignored by the mainstream media.

At any one time there might be half a dozen academics around the world working on the Expendable project, says Addison, although he refuses to name any of them.

When Inquirer first spoke to Addison the Manchester native was jetlagged, having flown from the UK to Bali the night before Corby’s release from Kerobokan prison.

There have been five or six such visits over the past 2 1/2 years, Addison said, adding that on those visits he has met Corby “three or four times”.

Addison and other Corby truthers are the flame-keepers of a familiar conspiracy theory, one conceived in the months after the former beauty student’s arrest in 2004 by a defence team desperate to keep its client off death row.

Briefly, the theory runs as follows: that when Schapelle Corby boarded her flight to Bali in Brisbane her boogie board bag was empty, save for the board itself and a pair of flippers.

Instead, they allege that once the bag was checked a crooked baggage handler in Brisbane slipped a plastic bag containing 4.2kg of marijuana into her bag. The plan was for other baggage handlers, who according to Addison were also Australian Federal Police informants, to remove the drugs at Sydney Airport, where Corby transited on her way to Bali.

“Their role was to take the drugs out of the bag and distribute them on the streets of Sydney,” Addison told Inquirer.

Addison claims to have the names of those involved. But when Inquirer asks he declines to provide them. Instead he makes vague hints about pending criminal cases and explosive revelations still to come. We’ll see.
It is a far-fetched theory, one that police sources contacted by Inquirer scoff at, citing the hundreds of moving parts that make up a busy airport like Sydney’s. Those parts, they say, would have to align perfectly for such a plan to come off.

Ironically, this is one area where the police and the conspiracy theorists perhaps agree: the plan didn’t come off. The drugs were never retrieved. Instead both Ms Corby and her bag, now stuffed with somebody else’s dope, continued on to Indonesia where it was discovered by customs.

The evidence for this theory?

Addison distils it to the following points: He says Corby’s bag, one of four she checked in, was the only one not scanned as it left Australia for Bali. He says the total weight of Corby’s bags was 65kg. Yet when she checked them in at Brisbane Airport she was never levied an excess baggage charge, despite being 5kg over the allowable weight of 60kg.

Addison says the Australian government repeatedly refused pleas by Corby to have the drugs, and the plastic bag in which they were stowed, forensically tested.

“It’s a scandal,” Addison said of Corby’s conviction, and the Australian government’s alleged role in it. “It’s a serious issue for Australia as a nation.”

So just how credible is this alternative version of events? Corby herself has steadfastly maintained her innocence throughout her nine-year ordeal. But since her conviction in 2005 a growing body of circumstantial evidence has emerged that suggests Corby was doing more or less what Indonesian authorities allege when they stopped her at Denpasar Airport.

And just as the Corby-truthers have begun to surface in the weeks since Corby was released, so too have the sceptics.

Chief among them is Robin Tampoe, Corby’s lawyer during her criminal trial. Tampoe was struck off as a solicitor after admitting on a television documentary the baggage handler theory was pure invention, something he had concocted for his client based on media reports about lax airport security.

When Inquirer interviewed Tampoe this week in Dubai, where he now lives and works, he stood by those claims.

“It had to be said,” Tampoe said of his 2005 admissions to Nine’s Sunday program. “It was just ridiculous the way these people were behaving.”

Tampoe said the baggage handler theory came about as he was conceiving a defence for Corby.

“We had very little time to do it,” Tampoe explains. “I got back from Indonesia; I was talking to a friend of mine. He said, ‘switch on Triple J’. Steve Cannane was doing his talkback and there was a lot people ringing in. A few had been ringing in saying, ‘baggage handlers had been doing this’. And I said, ‘there you go. I’ll use that’. That’s where it came from. It came from Steve Cannane on Triple J.”

Having found the template for his client’s defence Mr Tampoe said other things began to play into his hands, such as the quirky case of a Sydney baggage handler who was sacked after being spotted wearing a camel suit head taken from a passenger’s luggage.

“(There was the guy) in the camel’s head walking around the airport,. “Ross Coulthart from the Sunday program did a bit of an in-depth into baggage handlers and a report from a very senior guy, I think he was from Interpol, who had given lectures to the federal police on exactly the same topic - the movement of narcotics using baggage handlers and corrupt airport staff.

Soon, Tampoe had what he describes as “a very viable theory”.

“Australians jumped on it, they loved it,” he says.

Unsurprisingly, Tampoe is scornful of the “evidence” cited by the likes of Addison, which he says is totally at odds with what was taking place at the time.

“I’ve read some of the conspiracies, the Expendables and all this sort of nonsense. It’s amazing. All they’re doing is sort of twisting what I created into their own reality,” he says.

Tampoe says claims Corby’s boogie board bag was the one bag not scanned are wrong.

He said he spoke to Qantas’s senior legal adviser who told him the only outbound bags being scanned at that time went to the US or the UK.

“At that point in time there were no bags being scanned that were going to Indonesia,” he says.

What of the claims Australia turned its back on Corby and her pleas to have the drugs and the plastic bag it was stowed in tested?

“Schapelle Corby was absolutely desperate to have the proper forensic testing into the bag and the fingerprints on it,” Addison says. “She was denied, largely by the Indonesian government but also by Australia.”

Not true, says Tampoe, who says an offer was made to conduct DNA pollen testing on the drugs.
It is true that in early December 2005 Corby’s lawyers requested the drugs be tested for tetrahydrocannabinol and a pollen count.

A spokeswoman for the AFP confirms request was received on November 1, 2004, barely three weeks after Corby’s arrest.

Tampoe says that at that point the defence strategy was to blame Indonesian officials for planting the drugs.
But when he took charge of Corby’s defence Tampoe says he overruled that plan, and the testing. “I said no, that will piss off the Indonesians. Not a chance.”

Tampoe worried that DNA pollen testing on the marijuana could have worked against his client.

“I knocked it back because it would have come out as (hydroponic) and you can’t get hydro in Indonesia,” he says. “If we had had that tested it would have come back to Australia and they could have pinned it down as close to South Australia. That’s reality.”

That, Tampoe said, would have been a “disaster” for Corby, who was later linked to a South Australian-based drug supplier.

As it happens, the INP declined the AFP’s offer and Tampoe elected not to pursue it.
Chris Ellison, who was justice minister at the time, confirms this version of events. “The offer of forensic testing was made but not taken up,” Ellison tells Inquirer.

Still, that didn’t stop Tampoe running the so-called “coals-to-Newcastle” defence: that it made no sense for Schapelle to import marijuana into a place already awash with it.

Nine years on, Tampoe says: “The reality is that for an expat you don’t buy marijuana there,” he says. “All you can get is bush weed, you’re buying it on the street and you don’t know if you’re buying it from an undercover cop, and the penalties are so big. So there’s a massive market for it and it’s sold to expats.”

As for the claim about Schapelle’s baggage, which according to Addison was 5kg overweight, Tampoe just sighs. “It’s a typical Corby twist. Not every time when you go through do they levy an excess charge on you, particularly when there’s four people travelling at the same time.”

Another Corby-sceptic is Ellison, who has been cast in the role of chief villain by the Corby lobby.
“These people have to remember this happened in Indonesia and we have to respect, and do respect, Indonesian sovereignty and jurisdiction,” Ellison told Inquirer.

“Their comments do nothing to advance Schapelle Corby’s case, in fact they harm it. I reject what they say as total rubbish that there was any conspiracy.”

To the contrary, the Australian government spared no effort in assisting Corby’s defence team prepare their case, including flying John Ford, a Victorian prisoner who claimed to have information on the Corby case, up to Bali at her defence team’s request.

Ford claimed to have overheard a conversation among prisoners claiming the marijuana had been placed mistakenly in Corby’s bag.

The AFP and Queensland Police investigated the allegations and found nothing.

Corby’s lawyer hardly seemed bowled over by Ford’s evidence.

“John Ford was just another person to go there and add a little more doubt,” Tampoe says.
Ellison says Tampoe’s fanciful defence about corrupt baggage handlers was exhaustively investigated by the AFP.

“Investigations at the time could find no evidence to support the claim that baggage handlers were responsible for placing the drugs in the bag,” Ellison says.

Other awkward facts have emerged casting doubt on the Corby conspiracy theories.

In 2008 convicted drug dealer Malcolm McCauley admitted being part of a long-standing drug ring with Schapelle’s father, the late Mick Corby. McCauley claimed he grew the dope in South Australia then transported it to Queensland where Mick flew it to Bali. A photo of McCauley visiting Corby in Kerobokan prison, reportedly seized after the drug squad raided his home, did nothing to help her credibility.

In that same year Mick’s cousin, Alan Trembath, claimed the Corby patriarch was a known marijuana dealer and had been in the drug trade for 30 years.

But according to Addison the government, the AFP, Qantas, Sydney Airport Corporation and villains like Chris Ellison have worked assiduously to suppress the truth about the Corby case.

Why would they bother?

Addison describes a complex mix of corporate, political and national security agendas that he says were working against Corby.

“If Schapelle had walked free the focus would have been on Sydney Airport,” he says.

“The relationship with Indonesia would have been ... well, who knows what would have happened down that route. It was two, three years post-9/11 and here was Australia’s main airport basically in the hands of criminal drug syndicates. The politics of it were quite severe in terms of the need to cap this, to control it.”

Addison cites acknowledged gaps in security at Sydney Airport at the time as further evidence for the pro-Corby version of events.

“The situation is probably best articulated by Alan Kessing,” Addison says, referring to the former Customs worker who in 2007 was convicted of leaking to this newspaper confidential reports into security flaws at Sydney Airport. “He knows what happened.”

But when Inquirer contacted Kessing he seemed less than impressed with Addison and his supporters. “I wish they’d stop using my name,” he says.

These days Tampoe declines to say if he thinks his former client was guilty as charged. He said Corby maintained her innocence throughout her trial, publicly and to him.

Tampoe says in the nine years since Corby’s sentencing Australians have forgotten how high the stakes in the Corby case were.

“This wasn’t about her walking through the front doors of the court,” he says of the defence team’s strategy. “This was about getting the death penalty off the table and then trying to get life off the table.
Clouds gather over Corby conspiracies

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