Canadian drug smuggler Robert Lloyd Schellenberg jailed in China to be retried after court deems 15-year sentence too lenient
- Defendant’s appeal hearing goes awry as high court says man first tried in 2016 got away too lightly
- Initial court was wrong to consider Schellenberg only an accomplice when he most likely played a key role in drug smuggling
As tensions continue to simmer between Beijing and Ottawa, a high court in northeast China on Saturday ordered convicted Canadian drug smuggler Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to be retried on the grounds his original sentence was too lenient.
Prosecutors said at an appeal hearing at the Liaoning Provincial High People’s Court that it was wrong for a lower court to have sentenced Schellenberg to only 15 years in prison. The Canadian was convicted in 2016 but no details of his initial trial or sentencing had ever been made public.
The high court said in a statement that it had ordered the case to be returned to the Intermediate People’s Court in Dalian, also in Liaoning, for a retrial.
The statement said that Schellenberg was tried at the intermediate court on November 20, 2016 on a charge of drug smuggling. As well as handing down the prison term, the court ordered the seizure of 150,000 yuan (US$21,800) worth of the defendant’s assets. Schellenberg lodged an appeal against the verdict.
The prosecutor at Saturday’s hearing said the evidence suggested that Schellenberg was highly likely to have been involved in organised international drug crime, and had played a key role in the smuggling of the narcotics.
“It was wrong for the court of first instance to regard Schellenberg as an accomplice in an unsuccessful crime and impose a light sentence,” the high court statement quoted the prosecutor as saying.
Under Chinese law, anyone found guilty of smuggling or manufacturing more than 1kg (2.2lbs) of opium, or 50 grams (1.7 ounces) of heroin or methylaniline faces 15 years to life imprisonment or, in extreme cases, the death penalty.
In 2009, Briton Akmal Shaikh was put to death after he was caught smuggling 4kg of heroin into Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
Schellenberg’s appeal hearing came just weeks after the arrests of two other Canadians accused of posing a threat to China’s national security.
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained separately after Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese technology company Huawei, was arrested in Vancouver on December 1, at the request of the United States.
Meng is sought by the US for allegedly lying to banks as part of an effort to evade sanctions on Iran. She is currently free on bail.
While China warned Canada of grave consequences following Meng’s arrest, neither side has said if the Schellenberg appeal and retrial were in any way related.
Canada’s foreign ministry said it has been following his case for several years and was providing consular assistance.
Canadian teacher Sarah Mclver, who was also detained by Chinese authorities earlier this month, had now returned home, Ottawa said.