Greek Australian Michael Sacatides has escaped the death penalty after being sentenced to 18 years in an Indonesian prison for smuggling almost 2 kilograms of methamphetamine into Bali.
Sacatides’ sentence, delivered on Monday, was more than demanded by prosecutors but less than that given to other drug runners. However, the former Sydney-sider who maintained his innocence, appeared startled and upset after the verdict was delivered.
In addition to the sentence, he was asked to pay a $108,000 fine or have three months added to his term. With good behaviour, Sacatides could expect to be released in about 10 years. Sacatides has a week to appeal, knowing that his sentence could be increased on appeal to the death penalty.
“I was expecting not guilty or something less than 16 years,” his lawyer Erwin Siregar said, adding “I think Sacatides was also shocked.” Prosecutors had asked for a 16-year jail term – less than the death penalty, life terms and 20-year sentences given to other Australian traffickers of “category one” drugs such as Schapelle Corby and the Bali nine.
Sacatides, from Wentworthville in Sydney’s western suburbs, had been living in Bangkok until recently, working as a martial arts instructor. He was detained at Bali airport in October after 1.7 kilograms of methamphetamine, worth about $400,000, was found hidden in the lining of his bag.
The 43 year-old said he travelled to Bali with little clothing and claimed an associate Akaleshi “Peter” Tripathi had lent him the bag that, unbeknownst to him, contained the drugs. He said he had asked Mr Tripathi for the bag after a shoulder injury made his usual sports bag unsuitable for the trip.
Asked yesterday why Mr Tripathi would hide such a valuable consignment of drugs in Sacatides’ luggage, Mr Siregar said “as soon as Michael was safe and cleared the airport’s screening I believe Peter was going to fly to Bali himself, and collect the drugs without Michael’s knowledge”.
The judges at Denpasar district court were lenient because Sacatides had no criminal record, had good character references and apologised for the damage his case had caused to Bali’s reputation.