Mother-of-five faces execution by 'gunshot to heart' over alleged drug smuggling to Taiwan

23 May 2024, 20:01

Debbie Voulgaris was arrested at Taoyuan International Airport in December last year after border security discovered drug-packed plastic bags inside her luggage
Debbie Voulgaris was arrested at Taoyuan International Airport in December last year after border security discovered drug-packed plastic bags inside her luggage. Picture: Change.org/Taiwan's Aviation Police

By Christian Oliver

A mother of five is facing the death penalty in Taiwan after stashes of heroin and cocaine were allegedly found inside her suitcase.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Debbie Voulgaris, 57, from Australia, was arrested at Taoyuan International Airport in December last year after border security discovered drug-packed plastic bags inside her luggage.

Officials claimed she was carrying 7kg of drugs and was paid $US1,800 (£1,400) to transport the stash - which is said to have a street value of $US1.25million (£1 million).

Voulgaris "vehemently denied" having any knowledge of carrying the illegal substances - instead claiming her ex-husband was behind the plot, Taiwan police said.

The mother-of-five's lawyer said her ex-husband must testify in court as he was the only person who could corroborate her claims.

If Voulgaris is found guilty she could likely face capital punishment, which is generally carried out by firing a handgun to the heart through the suspect's back.

Debbie Voulgaris escorted by police
Debbie Voulgaris escorted by police. Picture: Taiwan's Aviation Police

Read More: Boy, 11, shot in head while going to get his football back from neighbours

Read More: Supermarkets warn against panic buying over ‘project fear’ push for Brits to stockpile three days’ worth of food

If Voulgaris is not sentenced to the death penalty - which Taiwan politicians have attempted to throw out in recent years - she faces a minimum of five years in prison.

This could also be extended to life behind bars, depending on the outcome of the trial and sentencing.

Taiwan officials claim Voulgaris was carrying 7kg of heroin and cocaine which she picked up in Malaysia around December 10 last year, before flying to Taiwan.

"Based on her description… it appeared that number one, Ms Debbie Voulgaris was not aware of the nature of her travelling," Voulgaris's lawyer, Leon Huang, told the ABC.

"And number two, she had no idea of what's placed inside and under her luggage, because there is a hidden compartment and she wasn't aware of that."

The lawyer said it was "essential" for Voulgaris's ex-husband to take the stand in the case as he was the only person who could confirm her account.

Voulgaris's legal team said they were seeking to subpoena the ex-husband, but are not aware if he's in Australia.

Taoyuan District Prosecutors said in an indictment that Voulgaris was part of a "drug transport syndicate".

Police say they seized drugs from the mother's luggage
Police say they seized drugs from the mother's luggage. Picture: Taiwan's Aviation Police

The court document said: "Although the defendant confessed to the crime during the court's preparatory proceedings, it is noted that she had previously vehemently denied the crime during the investigation and detention interrogation by this court, and her statements have been inconsistent.

"Notably, the defendant claimed that the co-conspirator, John, who instructed her to bring category one narcotics to Taiwan, is her ex-husband, indicating a close relationship.

"The defendant and her lawyer requested that John be summoned to testify during the preparatory proceedings, implying that there remains a risk of collusion with John before his testimony," it read, reported by the ABC.

Voulgaris has been detained in a Taiwanese prison since her arrest.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

This image provided by Tamatha Bibbo, principal of the Pollard Middle School in Needham, Massachusetts, shows 23 sets of twins who graduated from Pollard Middle School

Double take: 23 sets of twins graduate from single Massachusetts middle school

Elephant Bubi kicks the ball towards the goal in Starkenberg, Germany

Bubi the elephant predicts Germany to win Euro 2024 opener against Scotland

Exclusive
Keir Starmer has called on the Europe to look again at new passport rules being introduced for EU travel.

Keir Starmer calls on Europe to look again at new passport rules being introduced for EU travel

Russia’s Kazan nuclear-powered submarine arrives at the port of Havana, Cuba, on Wednesday

US submarine pulls into Guantanamo Bay day after Russian warships arrive in Cuba

Wayne Lineker has shared an update with fans

Wayne Lineker says he's 'doing ok' after being knocked out by single punch after protecting woman from being harassed

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich waves and smiles as he stands in a glass cage in a courtroom at the First Appeals Court of General Jurisdiction in Moscow, Russia, on April 23 2024

US reporter Evan Gershkovich, held in Russia on espionage charges, to face trial

The 'Happy Days' actor shared a grinning selfie with Dublin Fire Brigade

Happy Days for The Fonz: Henry Winkler thanks firefighters after blaze at Dublin hotel

Rishi Sunak with Italian PM Giorgia Meloni

Rishi Sunak receives warm welcome at G7 summit as he reunites with Italian PM

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky walks past various international flags on arrival at the G7 in Borgo Egnazia, Italy

How will move to lend Ukraine billions backed by Russia’s frozen assets work?

Prince Andrew has a 'secret weapon' amid his ongoing Royal Lodge row with King Charles.

Prince Andrew may deploy ‘secret weapon’ amid ongoing standoff over Royal Lodge home with King Charles

Yazmin Oukhellou, Scott Timlin and Eva Zapico arriving at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Love Island and Towie stars appear in court accused of promoting dodgy investments on Instagram

Taylor Swift's fans set off earthquake monitors in Edinburgh.

‘Shaking it off the charts’: Taylor Swift fans set off earthquake monitors on first UK nights of singer's Eras Tour

G7 leaders at the summit in southern Italy

G7 summit opens with deal to use frozen Russian assets for Ukraine

‘She’s not sorry and is still on the run’: Harry Dunn’s mum slams his US diplomat killer Anne Sacoolas as inquest rules

‘She’s continuing to run': Harry Dunn’s mum slams 'despicable' US diplomat killer Anne Sacoolas as inquest concludes

Alan won eight League titles and three European Cups with Liverpool

Liverpool issue heartfelt birthday message to Alan Hansen after he was taken 'seriously ill'

A tourist fans a companion in front of the the Parthenon at the Acropolis in Athens

Heatwave forces Greek authorities to shut Acropolis in afternoon for second day