24 May 2022

Student sold meth to pay bills during COVID-19 pandemic

| Albert McKnight
ACT Law Courts

Chee Seng Er, 37, was sentenced to over nine months’ jail for trafficking methylamphetamine. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Hit with several problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including struggling to find ways to get home to Malaysia, a student began selling drugs to pay his bills.

On Monday (23 May), 37-year-old Chee Seng Er admitted to trafficking almost $10,000-worth of methylamphetamine after he had already spent over 440 days in custody.

The ACT Supreme Court heard his wife, who lived in Malaysia with his son, had already filed for divorce because Malaysian culture considered his arrest to be a “serious disgrace” to his family.

Er’s lawyer, Tamzin Lee, said he came to Australia to travel and wound up studying accounting, then English, and worked in hospitality.

His work at Masterbao in Civic dried up during the pandemic and he became unemployed, but he was ineligible for government support as he was on a student visa and had to resort to surviving off his savings.

Ms Lee said he tried to figure out how to go home and began to sell methylamphetamine to support his own drug habit as well as to pay day-to-day expenses, such as rent.

“Going back to Malaysia now with nothing would add to the disgrace he is already facing,” she said.

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In March 2021, he drove his friend to the Tuggeranong Police Station, but while waiting outside for the friend to come back out, a police officer approached him and he consented to his car being searched.

Justice David Mossop noted there was no reason given as to why the officer decided to speak to him in the first place, but the officer found clip seal bags containing a white crystalline substance, scales and over $2000 cash.

According to an analysis, the methylamphetamine found in his car weighed almost 22 grams.

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Justice Mossop said Er was a user-dealer who developed an addiction to methylamphetamine about six months before he was arrested.

He said his personal circumstances at the time of offending explained his behaviour and he would likely be deported when released from custody.

Er, who pleaded guilty to a charge of trafficking methylamphetamine, was sentenced to nine months and 15 days’ jail, backdated to when he was arrested in March 2021, which meant he had served the whole period and would be released into the custody of immigration officials.

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