$375k worth of cocaine mainly stashed in travel pillow

By Jimmy Ellingham

A drug mule caught importing almost 1kg of cocaine in New Zealand found it too difficult to smuggle his haul inside him so instead sewed most of it into a travel pillow.

Peter Koeman's efforts to fly under the radar didn't work and authorities nabbed the 49-year-old Dutch passport holder on arrival at Auckland Airport.

In total he imported 100 capsules of the class A controlled drug Cocaine. Weighing 939 grams, his stash could have fetched up to $375,000. Koeman managed to keep a couple inside him but had tried to hide the rest.

In the Manukau District Court, he admitted one charge of importing a Class A drug and was kept in custody until sentencing next month. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

A court summary of facts released to APNZ says before his arrest Koeman lived in Thailand, where he accepted an offer to act as a drug courier.

Over the New Year holiday period he flew to Sao Paulo, Brazil and then on to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where he was taken to a hotel by a member of the drug syndicate.

They gave Koeman a tub of liquid yoghurt and the 100 capsules, and told him to swallow or ingest them.

"The defendant attempted to swallow the pellets but found this too difficult and instead, unbeknownst to the associates in either Bolivia or Thailand, he sewed around 80 of the pellets into a travel neck pillow and the remaining ones he managed to ingest,'' the summary says.

On January 9, Koeman left Bolivia for Chile. On the flight there he had "bowel motions'' and "passed'' more capsules.

"He cleaned these on the plane, concealed them in his trousers as he went through passport control and then has added them to those concealed in the pillow.''

After spending the night at an airport, it was time for Koeman to leave for New Zealand but local authorities wouldn't let him board the plane on a one-way ticket.

Short of money, he contacted his contact in Bolivia, who arranged a man called "Buba'' to hand over some cash. Finally, Koeman was on his way.

But New Zealand authorities were suspicious of his travel schedule. On arrival he was spoken to by customs and police officers and admitted being a drug courier.

Koeman said he was due to be picked up at the airport and hand over the drugs in exchange for a A$10,000 fee.

After he "passed'' the final capsules, he was taken into custody.

Customs used its new "drug loo'' to deal with those. It is a portable device that automatically collects and cleans the pellets and then puts them into an evidence container.

Australian David Thackray, 33, has been arrested in connection to the smuggling and has pleaded not-guilty to a charge of importing cocaine. He is in custody and is due back in court next month.

- APNZ

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