Schapelle Corby’s conviction for attempting to import drugs into, or out of, a foreign country is a cautionary tale — but not an uncommon one.
Latest figures by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade show over 40 per cent of Australians imprisoned overseas have been convicted of drugs offences.
Reports by the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties show at least 20 Australians are, or have been on, death row for drug-related offences since the early 1980s, resulting in six executions.
Often in their early 20s, the individuals almost all claim to be unwitting drug mules or victims of complex crime syndicates.
As the country reacts to Ms Corby’s return, we revisit six infamous cases.
Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers, Malaysia
The two Perth men were the first westerners to be hanged under Malaysia’s tough anti-drug laws for heroin trafficking in 1986, aged 28 and 29.
Barlow and Chambers were caught carrying 180 grams of low-grade heroin hidden in a suitcase. A policeman had noticed Barlow’s nervous behaviour.
Reports suggest the pair was persuaded by John Asciak, a key figure in a Perth-based crime syndicate, to make the trip.
A subsequent appeal on the death sentences failed, as well as clemency appeals on behalf of then Australian prime minister Bob Hawke and British PM Margaret Thatcher.
Status: Executed by hanging
Martin Garnett, Thailand
Now aged 50, the former luxury car salesman holds the record for the longest overseas incarceration, having spent over 20 years in prisons across Thailand, the United States and Australia.
Garnett was arrested in 1993 in Bangkok as he attempted to transport almost five kilograms of heroin strapped to his body, destined for New Zealand.
While initially handed a death sentence, the penalty was later commuted to 40 years.
In 2011, he was extradited to the United States for running a separate international drug smuggling ring from inside a Thai prison.
Garnett’s pensioner mother then crowd-funded $20,000 so her son could serve out the remainder of his sentence in Sydney, and he was let free in 2015 after 22 years.
Gordon Vuong, Cambodia
Vuong was just 16 years old when he was caught in Cambodia for trying to transport over two kilograms of heroin in 2005.
Arrested as part of a drug syndicate with two others, traffickers had promised to pay the young Sydneysider $1,300 when he made the drop.
To the anger of many civil liberties groups, Vuong was initially interrogated by police without an adult, lawyer or embassy official present, and subsequently sentenced to 13 years in a Cambodian prison.
It was also later discovered Vuong had been caught based on information provided by the Australian Federal Police.
Then justice minister Chris Ellison attempted to negotiate a prisoner exchange, but to no avail.
The 28-year-old is set to be released next year.