A Sydney tow truck driver is facing life imprisonment in Fiji after what he claims was a dream holiday gone terribly wrong. The lawyers for Joseph Abourizk, 30, say his decision to take a charter boat cruise off the west coast of Fiji has resulted in the unimaginable.
He has spent the last nine months in jail and missed the birth of his first child – a baby girl called Penelope.
Mr Abourizk was arrested in July last year after he was allegedly caught with almost 50 kilograms of cocaine packed in two suitcases at Vuda Marina. But he claims he had absolutely no idea that the suitcases he was found with contained $15 million worth of drugs.
Mr Abourizk’s Australian solicitor, Warwick Korn, of Korn MacDougall Legal, has argued during a recent trial that his client was exploited by the captain of a charter boat.
The defence case is that Mr Abourizk decided to take a tour off the coast of Vuda with a Fijian local on July 13, 2015.
Before boarding the boat the captain of the vessel asked Mr Abourizk to collect some equipment with him.
Mr Abourizk’s case is that he agreed and then he travelled to the nearby town of Ba with the captain and Fijian man Josese Muriwaqa.
The captain then loaded two suitcases into the back of the car and the trio headed back to Vuda to take a boat out for a day trip.
When the group were driving back to the marina, the captain got out of the car shortly before Mr Abourizk and Mr Muriwaqa were arrested by Fijian police.
He and Mr Muriwaqa were each charged with one count of unlawful possession of illicit drugs.
“His position is very simple – he had no idea what was in the captain’s bags,” Mr Korn told Fairfax Media.
“This has been a horror story for Joseph, the true depths of which I cannot comment on at present. For now we are focused on his acquittal and bringing him home,” he said.
“This is a man that’s never been charged with a criminal offence before.”
Mr Korn told Fairfax media that Mr Abourizk and his wife Karla had been holidaying in Fiji before his arrest.
His wife went home early because of work commitments, and the next day Mr Abourizk was arrested.
The prosecution’s case is that the Australian was paid money by the captain to move the drugs.
Mr Abourizk is represented by Mr Korn, Sydney barrister Murugan Thangaraj, SC, and Lautoka lawyer Iqbal Khan.
His trial began in the High Court in Lautoka on March 29 before Justice Thushara Rajasinghe.
He has been in jail since his arrest.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said they were providing assistance.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance in accordance with the Consular Services Charter to an Australian man who was arrested in Fiji.
“For privacy reasons we are unable to provide any further information on this matter.”
It is expected a verdict will be handed down later this week.