British property dealer accused of smuggling cocaine in Bali escapes death sentence but could face 20 years in jail


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The Independent Online

A British property dealer accused of involvement in a failed attempt to smuggle £1.6m worth of cocaine has been told by a court in Indonesia that he faces up to 20 years in jail if he is convicted. He will not, however, face the death sentence.

Paul Beales was yesterday brought before a court in Denpasar on the island of Bali and formally charged. One charge accuses him of possessing drugs weighing less than 1kg and another alleges that he took part in the sale of narcotics weighing more than 5g.

The hearing was adjourned and he is next due to appear on 24 September.

The 40 year old was arrested in May along with three other Britons who are also accused of being involved in an attempt to smuggle the cocaine. Mr Beales, who has lived in Indonesia for the last 15 years and who has two young children has always maintained his innocence.

Reports suggest that the three other British citizens - Julian Ponder, Rachel Dougall and Lindsay Sandiford - are likely to go on trial within the next few weeks.

Yesterday, the Agence France-Presse reported that prosecutors told the court in Bali that if he was convicted Mr Beales faced up to 20 years in jail, though not the death penalty. There had previously been speculation that some of the Britons accused of being involved in the smuggling attempt could face execution if convicted.

"The defendant, together with Julian Anthony Ponder and Lindsay June Sandiford, was involved in a conspiracy to sell and purchase cocaine," prosecutor Wayan Terima Darsana told the Denpasar district court. "He could face a jail term up to 20 years."

Indonesian law carries notoriously draconian penalties for those involved in drug trafficking, though the death penalty has only been used occasionally in recent years. Prosecutors indicated Mr Beales would not be considered eligible for such a sentence as he was not considered to have been the main ring-leader. Two members of an

Australian drug smuggling gang known as the Bali Nine who were arrested in 2005 are on death row, while seven others face lengthy jail terms.

Another Australian, Schapelle Corby, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for smuggling 4kg of marijuana in 2005, recently had her term reduced by five years after a clemency appeal to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

It was reported yesterday that ahead of his next appearance, Mr Beales will be transferred to Bali's Kerobokan prison. Mrs Sandiford and Mr Ponder face the same charge as Mr Beales, while Ms Dougall has been accused of failing to report the crime of possessing drugs.