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British housewife caught with $2.6M in cocaine could face death

By Paul Armstrong, CNN
updated 9:34 AM EDT, Tue May 29, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 55-year-old Briton caught with blocks of cocaine weighing 4.8 kilograms in her suitcase
  • Three other Britons -- one woman and two men -- and an Indian man are also being questioned
  • They are accused by police of being part of an international syndicate

(CNN) -- A British woman could face the death penalty after being found with an estimated $2.6 million worth of cocaine in her luggage by Indonesian authorities.

Lindsay June Sandiford, 55, was found to have blocks of cocaine weighing almost 4.8 kilograms in her suitcase after she arrived on the island of Bali on a Thai Airways flight earlier this month, government officials said.

Sandiford, described by British media reports as a housewife, did not speak as she was paraded at a press conference Monday wearing a prison-issue orange t-shirt.

Three other Britons -- one woman and two men -- and an Indian man are also being questioned, Bali police narcotics chief Mulyadi told reporters. They are accused of being part of an international syndicate, he said.

Under Indonesia's extremely strict drugs laws, Sandiford could face execution, according to the head of Bali's Customs and Excise Agency monitoring division, Made Wijaya.

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"The main reason is because narcotics can massively endanger the young and, thus, whoever is caught with drugs should be severely punished. If three people can consume one gram of cocaine, then this operation has potentially saved up to 14,000 lives," Wijaya told journalists at Monday's press conference.

"This is the biggest drug bust this year, and this is the first cocaine smuggled into Bali in the last three years."

The British Foreign Office said it is "aware" of the arrests and is "ready to provide consular assistance."

Mulyadi -- who like many Indonesians uses one name -- revealed Sandiford was detained by customs officials on May 19 in the departure hall at Ngurah Rai International airport in Bali.

Officials seized the black suitcase, which contained several packages containing cocaine. He said Sandiford claimed the suitcase was to be delivered to an unknown person as ordered by a British woman identified as RLD.

According to Mulyadi, Sandiford then agreed to cooperate with Indonesian authorities and a meeting was set up with RLD on the island two days later. Police were then able to arrest RLD along with her British partner, identified as JAP, another British man known as PB, and an Indian man identified only as NA.

The four were shown to reporters at Bali's police headquarters wearing balaclavas on Monday.

Joseph Netto and Rudy Madanir contributed to this report.

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