Where the plane ticket for South Australian Cassie Sainsbury’s trip to Colombia was bought led to her arrest on drug trafficking charges last month.
The Australian revealed that the 22-year-old’s ticket to fly from Australia to Bogota, via London, was bought at the last minute by an unknown person in Hong Kong.
That act was one of several “red flags” noticed by the US Drug Enforcement Agency, who then alerted Colombian police. The Adelaide personal trainer was charged with drug trafficking after she was arrested at Bogota’s international airport with 5.8kg of cocaine in her luggage, concealed in 15 sets of headphones.
Sainsbury claims she bought the headphones as gifts for her upcoming wedding and maintains her innocence.
Her mother, Lisa Evans, said a man who had been showing Sainsbury around Colombia gave her a package wrapped in black plastic, supposedly containing 15 sets of headphones, in her hotel room.
The family set up a crowdfunding campaign towards her legal fees, but closed it on Monday evening after it raised more than $4000 towards a $15,000 target.
The Australian spoke to Bogota airport’s head of narcotics, Colonel Rodrigo Soler, who said her travel profile fitted a well-established pattern, although there was a slight chance – around 10% – that Sainsbury had been duped.
“When someone leaves their country for Colombia without a strong justification — for instance if a person comes to Colombia for two or three days — that triggers an alert,” he told The Australian.
Sainsbury’s family said she was on a short “working holiday” in Colombia.
News.com.au reports that her now private Instagram account shows Sainsbury travelled to China and the US earlier this year.
She posted a photo in Bogota on April 8 with the caption: “Can’t complain about an all expenses paid work trip, in which (sic) is mainly holiday very little work.”
Last night, 7 News aired claims that Sainsbury left Yorketown, on the Yorke Peninsula, owing tens of thousands of dollars after her gym business closed less than a year after opening, in 2015.
The outstanding debts include paid rent and money owed to an ex-boyfriend who helped finance the gym.
Sainsbury is now being detained in Colombia’s notorious El Buen Pastor women’s prison, and faces a potential 20 years in jail, but The Australian reports she may be working towards a plea bargain and plead guilty to lesser charges.
Her Colombian lawyer, Orlando Herran, said the case could be ruled on within 90 days with a minimum of four years of jail if she admits to some level of complicity, such as failing to property check her luggage.
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