British man Julian Ponder sentenced to six years in jail over Bali cocaine ring


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The Independent Online

A former antiques dealer linked to Lindsay Sandiford, the Englishwoman sentenced to death by a Balinese court last week for cocaine smuggling, was jailed for six years today for drug possession.

Julian Ponder, 43, the last of four Britons to face court in relation to a trafficking ring centred on the Indonesian resort island, visibly relaxed after a panel of three judges announced his sentence, according to witnesses. Although prosecutors had asked for a seven-year jail term, he must have feared a similar fate to Ms Sandiford, who wlil face a firing squad despite prosecutors requesting 15 years in prison.

The 56-year-old from Redcar, Cleveland, filed notice earlier this week that she intends to appeal against her sentence, and also plans to sue the British government, according to a human rights group, Reprieve, which has taken up her case. Reprive, which has engaged a law firm, Leigh Day, said she would seek a judicial review of the government’s failure to fund her appeal despite its opposition to the death penalty.

Mr Ponder, from Brighton, was also fined 1 billion rupiah (£65,690) for possession of 23 grams of cocaine. His partner, Rachel Dougall, 39, was jailed last month for a year for not reporting his crime, while Paul Beales, 39, was given four years for cannabis possession.

The trio were arrested on information provided by Ms Sandiford, arrested at Bali’s airport last May after customs officers found 4.8 kilos of cocaine in her suitcase. However, they were cleared of the most serious charge – trafficking – before their trials. Ms Sandiford was not so fortunate.

She claimed Mr Ponder was the person to whom she was supposed to deliver the cocaine. He was arrested after receiving a package from her. His lawyer argued in the Denpasar District Court that he thought she was giving him a birthday present for his six-year-old daughter, Kitty. The drugs were found in the luxury villa which he and Ms Dougall rented in Bali.

Ms Sandiford has said that she agreed to carry the cocaine – with an estimated street value of US$2.4m (£1.52m) – into Bali from Bangkok because a UK-based drugs gang had threatened to kill one of her sons.

Reprieve said she could not afford an appeal. The Foreign Office said it did not fund legal representation for Britons abroad but was continuing to raise her case through diplomatic channels.