Pastor accused of smuggling drugs
A New Zealand-born pastor on trial in Darwin for importing more than nine kilograms of methamphetamine and heroin into Australia with a street value of more than A$2 million (NZ$2.1m) has had her explanation dismissed by the Crown prosecutor.
Bernadine Terry Prince, the chief executive of Oasis of Grace – a Christian organisation aiming to "evangelise, encourage and better all nations" – was arrested after arriving in the Northern Territory capital in May last year. She had flown from Singapore after a trip to Africa and Asia.
The mother of three, who was pregnant when apprehended, denied importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled substance but was committed to stand trial in the Supreme Court.
Prince, who is also known as Pastor Bernie McCully, had been on a five-week trip to Kenya and Cambodia where Oasis of Grace has bases for fundraising and charitable work.
Crown prosecutor Glen Rice told the jury on the first day of the trial today that a customs officer detected traces of drugs on seven vinyl backpacks in Prince's suitcases, which were unusually heavy.
When inspected it was discovered packages containing crystal methamphetamine and heroin had been sewn into each backpack.
Prince said the bags had been given to her by a Kenyan woman known only as "Mummy Rose" who suggested that she sell some handbags made by African women to her congregation in Australia to raise funds.
Rice argued this was implausible.
"The bags were commercially produced bags that might be made anywhere; in fact, they were tagged as having been made in China," he said.
The cardboard used to pack the drugs was Cambodian, meaning the backpacks were not obtained in Kenya at all and a drug expert would testify that the heroin in the bags had a Southeast Asian chemical profile, Rice said.
Prince, who was 41 when arrested, lived in Sydney for about 15 years until 2011; she then left her Australian husband of eight years to live in Cambodia and marry Nigerian minister Joshua Prince.