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Schapelle Corby


Country: Indonesia

Arrested: October 8, 2004

Status: Paroled

Schapelle Corby was a beauty therapy student working in her family’s fish and chip shop in Australia. She had been saving money for months to pay for a trip to Indonesia. She had been several times before since her sister lived in Bali, but this was her first visit in four years. Corby, her brother, and two friends left Brisbane, Australia for what was supposed to be a two week vacation in Bali for her sister’s birthday. They flew from Brisbane to Bali with a layover in Sydney. As she passed through customs at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, customs officers stopped Corby. They found 9.3 pounds of cannabis, worth $40,000, in a double plastic vacuum-sealed bag in her unlocked bodyboard bag.

Case History

Corby was arrested on October 8, 2004 at the airport. Her trial began three months later on January 28, 2005. She pled not guilty and has maintained her innocence throughout the ordeal.  

Under Indonesian law, a suspect is innocent until proven guilty. Nevertheless, in the case of Schapelle Corby this standard did not appear to apply.  The prosecution’s case rested on the testimony of the customs officials who found the drugs.  Customs officer Gusti Nyoman Winata stated Corby tried to prevent him from opening the compartment that contained the drugs. Four other customs officials were also present when her bag was first examined.  They stated she tried to stop the bag from being opened and that she said, “I have some…” This claim was denied and contradicted by Corby and her travel companions.  They all testified that Corby had no idea the drugs were in the bag until it was opened, by Corby, not customs officials, at the airport.

In order to clarify the contradictory stories, Corby’s defense attorneys requested video footage from the airport be shown in court.  The judge’s reply was that, “We will use that if we need to.”  The prosecution confessed the footage was never reviewed.  Despite all of this, the video footage was never shown in court.

The defense presented their theory that Brisbane baggage handlers put the drugs in Corby’s bag for an interstate shipment between Brisbane and Sydney, Australia. The former head of operations for the Australian Federal Police’s (AFP) internal investigation unit, Ray Cooper, supported the defense’s claim. He stated it was well known within the AFP that some passengers were being used to transfer drugs domestically.

Corby’s defense was faced with roadblocks throughout the legal proceedings. John Ford, imprisoned at Port Phillip Prison in Australia for an unrelated matter, flew to Indonesia to testify in defense of Corby. He stated he overheard a conversation in prison between two men, one of which allegedly planted the drugs in Corby’s bag with the intention of having someone remove it in Sydney. He testified fellow prisoner Ron Vigenser owned the drugs, but refused to name the man who planted the drugs. A $1,000,000 reward was offered in exchange for information verifying Ford’s testimony, but no one came forward.  

“Corby’s attorneys requested fingerprint testing of the inner bag, which held the cannabis… This request was denied after the prosecution argued fingerprinting was unnecessary because the drugs were found in Corby’s possession.”

Corby’s attorneys requested fingerprint testing of the inner bag, which held the cannabis, since customs officers contaminated the outer bag by handling it without gloves.  This request was denied after the prosecution argued fingerprinting was unnecessary because the drugs were found in Corby’s possession. The defense also questioned the weight of the bags. Corby and her travel companions’ bags were weighed together in Brisbane. They totaled 65kg.  Bali police and customs did not record the weight of the bags. Corby’s defense claimed that if their bags were weighed again they could determine if the drugs were placed in her bag after she had already checked it. Again, this request was denied.

Despite the unsound evidence, Corby was convicted and sentenced to twenty years imprisonment and a fine of $13, 875. Both the defense and the prosecution appealed to the High Court. The defense appealed for a retrial and the prosecution appealed for life imprisonment.

In July of 2005 the High Court ruled Corby’s case should be reopened by the district court and on October 13, 2005 Bali’s High Court reduced the sentence to fifteen years. Again both the prosecution and defense appealed to Indonesia’s Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court’s three-judge panel rejected Corby’s final appeal and reinstated the twenty-year term. The court officially closed the case by ordering the evidence to be burned, including the bodyboard bag and cannabis.

In a last attempt to overturn her conviction, Corby requested a judicial review to the Denpasar District Court. Her attorneys argued the prosecutor did not prove Corby owned the cannabis as required.  Their request was also based on a letter by an Australian government official who wrote closed circuit television cameras were operating at Sydney airport the day Corby left. They hoped the footage showed someone putting the drugs in her bag. This final effort failed when the Supreme Court rejected this appeal on March 28, 2008.

During her imprisonment, Corby suffered from depression and psychosis. She was medicated and hospitalized for months in order to treat the conditions. With all legal options exhausted, Corby appealed to the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for clemency on humanitarian grounds. She cited her deteriorating mental health. It was not until two years later, on May 22, 2012, that the president granted a five-year reduction in Corby’s sentence. 

Current Status

Corby was released even earlier than anticipated when she was granted parole on February 7, 2014. After serving a total of nine years in prison, Corby was released on February 10, 2014.  Though she is no longer in prison she cannot leave Indonesia until her parole ends on July 25, 2017. She must serve an additional twelve months for guidance. Corby must live in Bali and check in with the corrections bureau monthly until her final release. She cannot use or distribute drugs, she must “dress neatly and appropriately for the officials”, agree to random home inspections, and obtain permission from the Justice Ministry to travel to other parts of Indonesia. 

Corby’s sister and brother-in-law have supported Corby unconditionally throughout her experience. Her brother-in-law is Corby’s parole guarantor and paid the $13,875 fine. 

They have opened their home to her while she serves out her time on parole, and given her work in their surf shop.