An Australian man and his Thai wife have been sentenced to death in Thailand after being found guilty of attempting to smuggle crystal meth worth $300 million into the country, with an eye to sell it on in Australia.
Luke Cook, 35, and Kanyarat Wechapitak, 40, were both sentenced in relation to the failed plot. The West Australian reports that their sentences will likely be commuted to life in prison.
The pair were arrested as Cook attempted to enter the country through Bangkok International Airport in December last year.
Thai police say that in June 2015, Cook sailed a yacht into international waters off the Thai coast in order to pick up a half-tonne shipment of the illicit substance dropped off by a Chinese vessel.
Authorities say they managed to intercept the deal, which resulted in a man throwing the cargo overboard and escaping back to the shore. Police lost track of the man in the early morning light, but 50kg of the drug later washed onto Mae Ramphueng Beach.
Investigators linked the drugs to Cook, a Hells Angels associate who operated a bar in Pattaya.
Authorities state Cook was paid $15 million to purchase and store the drugs by Hells Angels figure Wayne Schneider, who intended to smuggle the drugs into Australia at a later date.
It is alleged Schneider wanted the money repaid after the failed drop-off. A court ruled Hells Angels associate Antonio Bagnato murdered Schneider in December 2015. Bagnato was sentenced to death, but the sentence was eventually commuted to life in prison.
A Thai court also found Cook guilty of aiding and abetting Bagnato by driving him to the Cambodian border after the killing. His three-month prison sentence for the crime was suspended for two years after he plead guilty to the crime.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed to The West Australian it is currently providing assistance to an Australian in Thailand, but did not elaborate.
The arrest of Cook and Wechapitak came as part of a large-scale Thai operation cracking down on alleged criminal activity in the country perpetrated by outlaw motorcycle gangs, many of which have Australian links.
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Image: Narcotics Suppression Bureau