A New Zealand-born Australian man, who was arrested in November in China after allegedly trying to smuggle methamphetamine out of the country, has gone on trial Thursday. If found guilty, 25-year-old Peter Gardner could be executed.
Gardner was arrested at Guangzhou airport last November while attempting to board a flight to Sydney. Customs officials found 66 pounds of crystal methamphetamine in two sealed pieces of luggage belonging to Gardner, who holds citizenships of both Australia and New Zealand, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.
“I'm really sorry, I really regret it... I have broken the law and there's no getting out of it,” BBC quoted Gardner as saying during a live broadcast of the court proceedings on Thursday.
Gardner, who admitted that he had made “a really big mistake,” said that he would cooperate with local authorities in identifying Chinese drug traffickers. He also added that he had no previous drug convictions in Australia and New Zealand, BBC reported, adding that New Zealand's foreign affairs and trade ministry were supporting Gardner.
Gardner’s Australian girlfriend, Kalynda Davis, who was traveling with him at the time of his detention, was released in December, after authorities decided that she was not involved in the smuggling of the drugs.
Gardner's trial closely follows the executions of two Australian drug smugglers -- Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran -- in Indonesia. Several appeals by Australia for Indonesia to commute their death sentence were unsuccessful.
China is also known to have strict anti-drug laws and anyone found carrying more than 1.7 ounces of methamphetamine potentially faces a death penalty or life imprisonment.
According to a recent report by Chinese state news agency Xinhua, more than 168,000 narcotic-crime suspects were arrested in 2014, while nearly 70 tons of drugs, including 26 tons of methamphetamine and 9.3 tons of heroin, were seized by police last year.
Drugs such as methamphetamine have become common even in remote Chinese towns and villages, with some experts saying that “the era of synthetic drug abuse is arriving secretly” in China, The Christian Science Monitor reported, citing Zhang Yongan, a drug policy expert at Shanghai University. The report also cited Chinese officials as saying that methamphetamine, which is easy to produce, had overtaken heroin as the addiction of choice in China.