Australian woman in Colombia cocaine arrest, family says

Image source, FundRazr/Khala Sainsbury
Image caption,
Cassie Sainsbury's family says she is innocent

An Australian woman has been arrested in Colombia after being found with 5.8kg (12lb 13oz) of cocaine in her luggage, her family says.

Cassie Sainsbury, 22, was stopped at an airport in Bogota on 12 April. She could face up to 25 years in jail, according to her sister, Khala.

The drugs were hidden inside 15 pairs of headphones that Ms Sainsbury bought during a holiday, the family said.

Ms Sainsbury's family claims she is innocent of drug trafficking charges.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed it was providing consular assistance, but did not give further details.

What does her family say?

The personal trainer, from Adelaide, had just finished a working holiday when she was arrested at El Dorado International Airport, her family said.

Ms Sainsbury's mother, Lisa Evans, claimed her daughter was the "naive" victim of a Colombian man she had befriended during her trip.

"The day of her departure, he came up to her hotel, gave her a package that was wrapped in black plastic and she took it and put it in her luggage," she told Australian radio station KIIS FM.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Ms Sainsbury (not pictured) was arrested at El Dorado International Airport

"And this is where the naive bit comes in, she didn't even rip it open to make sure there were headphones in there."

They said she was being held at El Buen Pastor, Colombia's largest women's prison.

The family has started an online campaign to help cover legal fees, raising A$2,600 (£1,500; $2,000) in four days.

What punishment may she face?

Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs in Colombia are severe and offenders can expect long prison sentences under harsh conditions.

According to Ms Evans, Ms Sainsbury's lawyer has recommended a guilty plea to avoid a maximum sentence up to 25 years in jail.

If Ms Sainsbury pleads guilty, she would face a six-year sentence, which could be reduced further if she gives information about the man who supplied the headphones, Ms Evans said.

Colombia is one of the world's largest producers of coca leaves and cocaine.

Highly pure cocaine costs more than A$350 per gram in Australia, making it proportionally the most lucrative market in the world, according to the Global Drug Survey 2015,

According to a government website, Colombia's official working holiday visa may only be obtained by citizens of Chile, France, Mexico and Peru.