Remote WA hostel raided, backpackers charged with importing drugs via mail

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Two men have appeared in court accused of importing a range of drugs from the Netherlands into a remote town in Western Australia via the post.

Key points:

  • A pair of foreign nationals have had their passports seized after being charged with importing illegal drugs into WA
  • The men are required to post $170,000 in bail between them after Border Force intercepted mail allegedly containing the drugs
  • One of the accused works at a hostel in Kununurra, while the other was working on a mango farm in the area

French citizen Romain Levillain, 27, and Italian-born Claudio Zanieri, 32, were charged and held in custody after police raided a backpackers’ hostel in Kununurra, 3,200km north of Perth, on Wednesday evening.

Detectives seized 29.5 grams of cocaine, 18 tablets of LSD and 14 grams of MDMA, as well as cannabis and drug paraphernalia alleged to belong to the men.

The foreign nationals fronted the Kununurra Magistrate’s Court this morning.

Prosecutors told the court Border Force officials intercepted three letters from two different suppliers in Rotterdam addressed to what were believed to be false names.

Police prosecutor Neil Berkley told the court the letters contained cocaine, MDMA and LSD.

He said Border Force replaced the drugs with a false substance before the letters were sent on to the Kununurra YHA.

Police raid

Several detectives raided the hostel on Wednesday night.

Police allege Mr Levillain had allegedly received the letters and opened them, and had further drugs stored in his locker.

The 27-year-old was charged with eight separate drug offences, including possessing LSD, cocaine and MDMA with intent to sell or supply.

Co-accused Mr Zanieri was charged with five offences, including intent to sell or supply both MDMA and cocaine.

Police opposed bail for both men, citing concerns that they could leave the country due to their ‘international connections’, despite police seizing their passports.

Backpackers and hostel managers

When making a bail application, defence lawyer Leanne Wykes said neither of the men had criminal records.

The court heard Mr Levillain had been in Kununurra for three weeks to work on a mango farm after spending the past year travelling around Australia with his girlfriend, while Mr Zanieri had been in Australia for three years and was managing the Kununurra backpackers’ hostel.

Ms Wykes noted both men were innocent until proven guilty and disputed the facts read to the court.

Surety for safety

Magistrate Colin Roberts said the charges were “extremely serious” and acknowledged there was a real risk the men could leave the country.

He granted bail on the condition that neither men were to contact any witnesses.

Mr Levillain was required to raise $100,000 in surety and Mr Zanieri needed to fund $70,000.

Ms Wykes said she was concerned her clients were not in a financial position to raise the funds, but Mr Roberts said the amount had to be significant given the severity of the charges.

“These matters must go to District Court, there is every chance jail will be imposed,” he said.

“He’s very, very lucky to even get bail.”

Both men will be required to report daily to the Kununurra Police Station and are due back in Court on December 13.