How a ‘cleanskin’ 70-year-old German photo shop owner with no criminal record was tricked into bringing two suitcases of meth to Australia
- Wilfried Van Duhren, 70, had no criminal record
- He was tricked into bringing eight kilograms of meth to Sydney
- Van Duhren was sentenced to five years in prison for the drugs
An elderly German man who was tricked by international drug gangs into bringing millions of dollars of meth to Australia has been sentenced to five years in prison.
Wilfried Van Duhren, 70, was a ‘clean’ German citizen who ran a photo shop from Brandenburg.
He was then targeted in March of last year by a person named Karen Thompson, who claimed she had received an inheritance of $10.5 million from a long-lost relative.
However, to access the inheritance, Thompson claimed she had to bring a trunk full of gifts to Sydney.
Claiming to be a representative of the Royal Court of London and the UK Treasury, Thompson convinced Van Duhren she was legitimate through a series of emails.
She eventually persuaded him to travel to Sydney via Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, where he retrieved two suitcases of eight kilograms of meth.
When Van Duhren arrived in Sydney, he quickly realized there was no inheritance – and he was subsequently arrested by Border Force officials.
Wilfried Van Duhren, 70, was a ‘cleanskin’ German citizen who ran a photo shop from Brandenburg
Van Duhren told them he had no knowledge of the drugs, but he was accused of importing a large commercial quantity of a controlled substance.
The German spent months in prison, spoke no English and suffered from health problems.
This week, a judge jailed him for five and a half years, with a non-parole period of two years and nine months, according to the Daily Telegraph.
His lawyer told the court that Van Duhren is “ashamed” to have fallen for the ruse, but accepts he was guilty and reckless.
Van Duhren claimed he was doing his best to ensure the gift and inheritance were legitimate and questioned Thompson via email.
“I assume we will not have any problem with regard to the delivery of the gifts,” he wrote. “This is just to promote business – is it legal?”
Thompson assured him it was legal and gave him and his wife $700 before arranging for them to travel to Sydney.
His wife Vera was also arrested upon their arrival and spent months in jail before the charges were dropped.
She later returned to Germany, where the court was told she “cried daily.”
He was then attacked by one Karen Thompson in March last year. Thompson claimed to be a representative of the Royal Court of London and the UK Treasury
The court heard several friends and relatives of Van Duhren, who wrote letters describing him as a “nice, helpful and hard-working man.”
“He is ashamed that he has been cheated and that he has fallen for an incredible ruse,” his lawyer told the court.
“(But) he accepts his guilt on the basis of recklessness…although he was clearly guided by callous individuals involved in an elaborate and sophisticated scam.”
Judge Mark Williams agreed that Van Duhren was unaware that he was importing drugs and acted on a “false hope.”
“He was targeted because of his good character and age,” he said. “He was blinded by hopes of financial reward based on the naive or reckless belief that he would receive millions in inheritance, rather than the hope that he would be paid for acting as a mule for a drug syndicate.”
Judge Williams also pointed out how several elderly and vulnerable people had ended up in Australian prisons after unknowingly behaving like drug runners.
A tearful Van Duhren apologized for his role and told the court he was relieved the drugs never made it to the streets and destroyed more lives.
He is eligible for release in 2025.