Cassandra Sainsbury
Cassandra Sainsbury, an Australian, is seen in handcuffs after she was arrested at the international airport in Bogota, Colombia, April 12, 2017. Picture Taken April 12, 2017. Colombian Police/Handout via Reuters

Cassandra Sainsbury was arrested after the US Drug Enforcement Agency tipped off Colombian authorities of a possible drugs smuggling. The 22-year-old Australian’s last-minute plane ticket purchase in Hong Kong was apparently a red flag.

The Australian reports that US authorities thought the Adelaide personal trainer’s plane ticket from Australia to Colombia via London, which was thought to be an eleventh hour purchase by an unknown party for her, was suspicious so they alerted their Colombian counterparts. Bogota was the final leg of her journey. She had also been in China and Los Angeles days before her arrest.

She arrived in the South American country on April 3 and had been arrested on April 12 at the El Dorado International Airport in Bogota. According to Channel Seven, her passport details had been forwarded to authorities as early as April 5. She was denied bail and remains at the El Buen Pastor women’s prison.

Sainsbury was found to have 5.8kg of cocaine in her bag. Her family claims the drugs were hidden inside the 18 boxes of headphones she bought from a man acting as her translator in the country. Her family said she apparently was “naïve” in the sense that she did not check the headphones before packing them in her suitcase.

But Colonel Jorge Mendoza, the head of ports and airports for the Colombian drug enforcement police department, said that it’s unlikely she was not aware that the headphones contained packets of cocaine. “There was not really a very sophisticated mode of concealment,” he was quoted by the ABC as saying. “The drugs were wrapped in bags, 18 packets as I said previously, inside her suitcase. So, it is difficult to say that she did not know that the substance was inside her suitcase.”

Lieutenant Colonel Jorge Triana, head of the anti-narcotics police at the international airport in Bogota, was sceptical of Sainsbury’s story as well. He told the local W Radio on Tuesday that her claim was not only probably false, but also not an acceptable one. “She recognised the luggage as hers so whether she knew there were drugs in it or not, it doesn’t excuse her actions,” he said.

Her sister Khala set up a Fundrazr page to help with her legal fees, which they targeted to $15,000. However, the page has since been taken down. It garnered just over $4,000 and had received overwhelmingly negative comments from people who did not believe Sainsbury’s version.

Her family claimed she was in Colombia to promote her personal training business, but her fiancé, Scott Broadbridge, said she had not been a PT for six months before the trip. There is also no working holiday visa arrangement between Colombia and Australia.

Residents in Bogota said that headphones are hard to find in the Colombian city. An Australian resident in the country told the Daily Mail that she had never seen headphones for sale there and that technology is considered expensive to buy there.

Sainsbury can face up to 25 years in prison if she is proved guilty. Her Colombian lawyer advised her to plead guilty in a bid to be handed the minimum six-year sentence.

Read more:
Adelaide PT Cassie Sainsbury facing 25 years in Colombian prison for carrying 5.8kg cocaine