- Priya Govender has been charged with importing a border-controlled drug
- The 32-year-old allegedly smuggled cocaine inside six hollowed-out books
- The offence itself carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment
SAA flight attendant Priya “Pree” Govender, who has been accused of drug trafficking, stood trial in the Stirling Gardens Magistrate’s Court in Australia this week.
The 32-year-old South African Airways (SAA) worker was arrested on August 18 after arriving at Perth from Johannesburg with the drugs allegedly hidden inside six hollowed-out books.
It has not yet been made known whether Ms Govender hoped to pass the drugs onto someone in Australia as no further arrests have been made at this time.
The identity of Ms Govender was made public after SAA revealed one of its employees had been placed into custody on drug charges. Govender, who worked for the airline since January 2010, was charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.
SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said the airline’s station manager in Perth had kept in touch in with Govender “as much as possible” during the period immediately after her arrest.
“Govender’s matter is handled as a criminal case by the Australian authorities and, as such, the airline does not have any direct access to the status of her case or proceedings as she is charged individually,” he said.
Tlali said SAA’s own internal processes and investigations had been finalised and “the outcomes thereof communicated to Ms Govender”.
“We cannot disclose this information. However, since the occurrence of this incident, the random nature of screening has been increased and is determined by the relevant authorities.
“Members of our crew are subjected to security screening by relevant authorities prior to departure.”
He said the objective of security screening was to detect weapons, explosives and harmful articles, “and not narcotics as such”.
“Narcotics checks are conducted randomly and/or when the security screeners notice suspicious items in baggage.”
Patricia Gerber, of the advocacy organisation Locked Up in a Foreign Country, said Govender’s family had not approached her organisation for help.
“Australia is very strict when it come to drug trafficking. They don’t care what your story is; if you are found with illegal substances, you are guilty. We currently have over 3000 South Africans sitting in foreign prisons for drug offences.”
Gerber said the organisation had been working with the South African government for several years to enter into prison agreements with other countries so that prisoners can serve their jail time here. But the government had been unable to finalise the policy, she added.
Sources: IOL, Daily Mail