A Polish man has been sentenced by a Norwegian court to more than 10 years in the slammer for trying to smuggle 88 pounds of amphetamine disguised as a shipment of COVID-19 vaccines.
The 50-year-old man, who has not been identified, was stopped by customs officials shortly after he arrived in Norway from Denmark by ferry, according to VICE, which cited local broadcaster NRK.
He covered his van with magnetic stickers bearing the logo of BioNTech, one of the developers of the Pfizer jab, and also placed a folder featuring the logo on the dashboard, according to the news outlet.
Officials discovered the massive stash of amphetamine, colloquially known as speed, hidden in the vehicle’s roof – an amount that represents nearly 10 percent of Norway’s annual seizures of the drug, VICE reported, citing Norwegian media accounts.
The Vestfold District Court said the man, a truck driver in Germany, had been offered about $23,500 to smuggle the drug, a popular stimulant in northern Europe, the outlet reported.
“He came into contact with people who wanted him to smuggle drugs to Norway,” read the verdict obtained by Motherboard. “At first he refused, but then the pandemic came and there were fewer assignments and the wages were low. He rented a van in Germany and drove to Amsterdam, where he was handed the drugs.”
It continued: “He was afraid of these people and what they could do to his family. They told him they knew where his family in Germany lives.”
The smuggler’s attorney, Sverre Sjøvold, said his client thought he was smuggling hash, not speed, which carries a much more severe sentence.
“He was certain that he was smuggling hashish, and had in mind a sentence of three to four years in prison,” Sjøvold told NRK. “When he heard 10 years and six months, it was clear he was shocked.”
The lawyer’s office told Motherboard in an email that the man “was wrongly convicted” and that he will appeal, according to VICE.
The court pointed to fingerprint and DNA evidence found on the vacuum-packed bags containing the speed – and threw cold water on his story that one of the bags fell from the hidden compartment and hit his head during the journey.
“The court is certain that he either knew or thought it more than 50 percent likely that he was smuggling amphetamine,” the court wrote.