Brazil's consulate in Auckland is telling its nationals that if they are caught smuggling drugs into New Zealand they will only serve a couple of years in prison, a court has heard.
The claim was made today during the sentencing of a 33-year-old Brazilian man who was stopped at the border last year with up to $1.68 million worth of cocaine in his suitcase.
Marlon Batista De Macedo stood in the dock in the Manukau District Court as a Portuguese translator told him he will serve at least half of his eight years and six months in a Kiwi prison.
"He's made a terrible mistake," Batista De Macedo's lawyer Annabel Maxwell-Scott told the court.
"He comes from a region of Brazil that has had a number of [drug] couriers in recent times."
Maxwell-Scott added that Brazilian authorities here were giving people "unfair expectations" by telling them what punishment they could expect from the criminal justice system if caught importing drugs.
"The Brazilian consulate are telling them they'll be released after two to three years and then be deported," she said.
The maximum sentence for importing a class A drug for supply is life imprisonment.
When Batista De Macedo arrived at Auckland International Airport from Brazil via Dubai on September 12 last year he told Customs officers a story they'd heard before.
He said he'd met a man called "Ronaldo", who told Batista De Macedo he could help him study in New Zealand if he delivered a "parcel".
Batista De Macedo, who had previously studied tourism, was then given a suitcase and a cellphone.
But hidden behind the lining of the suitcase was 2.3kg of cocaine, worth up to $1.68m.
The court heard that Batista De Macedo was under the impression that if caught with the parcel he would simply be deported.
"You decided to take the opportunity because at the time you were unemployed," Judge John Bergseng told the Brazilian man.
Joao Marcelo Albanez, a 38-year-old Brazilian, also told Customs officers he was broke and was in New Zealand to study when he was caught last November with 3.4kg of cocaine, worth up to $1.5m.
Marcelo Albanez was sentenced to seven years and two months' imprisonment last month.
Letters from Batista De Macedo's family said they were "shocked" after learning of his arrest in New Zealand.
He will be deported at the conclusion of his sentence.
Judge Bergseng conceded that the sentence he handed down to Batista De Macedo would probably not act as any deterrence to those in a similar position who are persuaded to be used as drug mules.
Customs manager of passenger operations at Auckland Airport Peter Lewis said late last year that seven drug couriers had been arrested at Auckland Airport during a three-month period.
They had arrived from Thailand, Chile and Brazil, carrying a total of more than 20kg of either methamphetamine or cocaine.
- Additional reporting NZN