Lawyer leads fight against drug gangs

A high-profile lawyer, who currently represents former AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd, is on a mission to tackle drug gangs using online scams to recruit unwitting drug traffickers.

Tauranga-based senior barrister Craig Tuck is not shy of a fight when it comes to human rights.

The passionate lawyer, who is the head of LawAid International Chambers and the founder of Slave Free Seas, is part of a new organisation called MULE, which aims to expose drug gangs using online scams to recruit unwitting drug traffickers.

The organisation has been formed hot on the heels of the case of Kiwi man Antony de Malmanche who was arrested in Bali in December last year with 1.7kg of methamphetamine; and who was represented by Tuck.

Malmanche’s defence centred on the fact he had been set up as a drug mule by his girlfriend Jessy who he had met online – a situation more common that one might think for both New Zealanders and Australians.

A recent investigation by ABC revealed that the Australian Federal Government and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have made a series of high-level representations to China this year following evidence a number of Australians in Chinese prisons were duped or coerced into smuggling millions of dollars’ worth of drugs.

"Australians and New Zealanders are attractive to the cartels because the Australian or a New Zealand passport is an access or a gateway between countries," Tuck told ABC.

MULE includes eight lawyers – two direct liaison lawyers including Tuck and one in Australia, as well as network lawyers in the UK, Indonesia, China, Australia and New Zealand.

“All lawyers have experience in the criminal jurisdiction and international human rights at some level,” he told NZLawyer.

All cases are mostly pro bono with costs and disbursements covered.

“It is surprising where the funds can come from, with the media having a budget to assist or some NGOs have small pools of funding - Australians Detained Abroad, Reprieve and others working in the Human Trafficking sector - in addition to the financial support of the families of the accused.”

Tuck said it all starts with a phone call.

“Once you meet the client and look into their eyes and hear their story [there is] no turning back.”

He described the lawyer’s role in these situations as a “facilitator or dot connector" - mustering information, resources and contacts and liaising with a wide variety of disciplines, as well as direct advocacy in court with governments and other agencies.

“In reality the lawyer will have to have a multi-disciplinary skill set and be able to work with a big picture that has lots of leverage points.”

Lawyers interested in more information about MULE can contact Asia Pacific Lawyers Network public affairs manager Mandy Wyer on +61 418 270 656.

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