From West Coast beekeeper to acquitted drug smuggler - it all started with a phone call video

SAM STRONG/STUFF

Beekeeper Roy Arbon tells us what it's like to be back and the legal support he received during his trial in Australia.

A beekeeper who spent 18 months in prison on remand after he was tricked into trafficking 2.5 kilograms of cocaine says he is simply "too trusting".

Roy Stuart Arbon flew from Brazil to Perth in February last year, where he was found at the airport with 2.5 kilograms of 79 per cent-pure cocaine hidden in the lining of a suitcase he was given.

Eighteen months later, he sat in the District Court of Western Australia as a jury announced they found him not guilty.

Roy Arbon outside of the Greymouth library following his return to the West Coast.
SAM STRONG/STUFF

Roy Arbon outside of the Greymouth library following his return to the West Coast.

"There were tears running down my face," he says, speaking on the phone outside a library back in hometown Greymouth, on the South Island's West Coast. 

READ MORE:
* Drug smuggling accused Roy Arbon appoints human rights lawyer
* Accused Kiwi drug smuggler went to Brazil to pursue large sum of money

It all started with a phone call from a man purporting to be from Santander Bank.

He said he could make them both a lot of money and would only take a 10 per cent cut.

He spoke with a woman in Arizona. He spoke with a man in Chicago. The deal seemed simple enough. Fly to Sao Paulo, Brazil, pick up a bag and take it to India.

Arbon, who had been duped before, agreed. 

In 2015 he lost $200,000 – cash he got from selling his home – in an email scam. He lost more than $5000 in a fake online relationship to a scammer posing as a young Russian dentist.

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In Brazil two Nigerian men met him at his hotel room and gave him the bag.

"They said 'this is the bag you're going to take to India' and in India they were going to give me a gift for Australia.

"I wasn't skeptical. I thought it could be diamonds, gold, could be money – I didn't even think about drugs."

The plan unravelled at Sao Paulo airport. Arbon was told he could not fly to India because he did not have a yellow fever immunisation certificate. The man in charge of the operation told Arbon to go to Dubai, but there were no flights.

He flew to Perth instead, where he was arrested.

"I didn't know there were drugs in the bag," he said on Friday.

The cocaine was hidden in the lining of his bag, above the wheels.

The 18 months behind bars was "different".

"It was fine to start with. They were good guys, they were just genuine. There was no real animosity and they respected my age."

Looking back, he is "very pleased" he never made it to Dubai, where drug trafficking carries the death penalty.

"I wouldn't be here talking to you today, I would have been dead in Dubai."

His trusting nature was to blame for the ordeal, he said.

"It's the way I was brought up. I was brought up to trust people. I was brought up to leave the door unlocked and the keys in the car – not anymore of course."

Not a man to keep grudges, Arbon said he had no animosity towards those that doubted his innocence. Just those who tricked him in the first place. 

"I hope that karma comes along and hits them."

As for his future, he has little money and, beyond staying with his friends for the next two weeks, he does not know where he will live.

He's keen to get back into the bee business and promised not to be conned again.

Arbon's just happy he's free.

"I'm loving it. I'm sitting here outside the library in the sun. It's not raining.

"I'm a free man. The hardest part was getting used to being free. You can't see the stars in prison."

 - Stuff

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