An Australian grandmother accused of drug trafficking in Japan has been charged with importing 1.9kg of meth in what her family claims was part of an online ‘romance scam’.
Western Australian woman Donna Nelson, 56, took a suitcase containing the ‘illegal stimulants’ onto a plane at Laos International Airport on January 3, Japanese court documents allege.
The Indigenous Greens candidate and community leader then changed flights in Vietnam, carrying the suitcase onto another plane bound for Japan.
But she was arrested by customs officers at Narita Airport, in the Chiba district, just outside of Tokyo.
Prominent Western Australian woman Donna Nelson, 56, allegedly took a suitcase containing 1.9kg of ‘illegal stimulants’ through airports in three countries before being caught
Authorities confirmed she was charged with the violation of the Stimulants Control Law and Customs Law
She has been in custody since arriving on January 4 and was formally charged on Monday with violating the nation’s strict Stimulants Control Law and Customs Law.
Ms Nelson now faces the prospect of 20 years behind bars.
Her family claims she was the victim of an elaborate online love scam after being targeted by a Nigerian man they knew as Kelly.
The family believe Ms Nelson, who is also chair of a West Australian Aboriginal health service, was either forced or tricked into carrying the suitcase, which was not part of her luggage when she left Australia.
They said Ms Nelson had been talking with a Nigerian man online for two years before she was arrested.
She has been detained without charge since January 4, when she suddenly stopped answering messages from family and friends shortly after landing in the Japanese capital.
The family said her last message to her daughters was to stop being ‘clowns’ after they had bombarded the family group chat with jokes about Japan’s freezing weather.
Her family claims she was the victim of an elaborate online love scam after being targeted by a Nigerian man they knew as Kelly
A tracking app later revealed she had not moved from the airport for several hours after landing, sparking fears something was not right.
Three days later, police and consular officials confirmed to the family Ms Nelson had been detained by Japanese authorities on suspicion of drug trafficking.
The family has only been able to contact her through her court-appointed lawyer.
Ms Nelson had travelled to Japan to meet the Nigerian man, known as ‘Kelly’, who she met two years earlier through an online dating site called AfroIntroductions.
The Australian grandmother and Greens candidate is accused of drug trafficking in Japan after being charged with importing 1.9kg of meth
The family said her last message to her daughters was to stop being ‘clowns’ after they had bombarded the family group chat with jokes about Japan’s freezing weather (Donna Nelson pictured bottom centre with family)
He claimed to be the owner of a high-end fashion brand.
Ms Nelson’s daughters told The Sydney Morning Herald the pair had messaged back and forth for months and had discussed talking a trip to Brazil.
The daughters also said the pair had planned to marry in Nigeria, donning traditional African attire.
They said the man had gained Ms Nelson’s trust by sending her an image of a document he claimed was his Japanese residency card and offering to fund trips overseas for some of her daughters.
After successfully convincing Ms Nelson to visit him in Japan, ‘Kelly’ bought business class tickets to fly her to Tokyo via Singapore, Laos and Vietnam.
The family believes Ms Nelson met with an associate of ‘Kelly’ during a three-day stop in Laos, where she came to be in possession of the bag that led to her airport arrest.
Donna Nelson (second from right) was the Greens candidate for the Western Australian seat of Pearce at the 2022 federal election
Ms Nelson’s daughter Kristal Hilaire said one of the hardest things for her to come to terms with was that her mother’s heart would have ‘broke’ upon realising ‘this person didn’t love her’.
The daughters said Ms Nelson’s lawyer had been able to pass on their messages of support and share photos of her grandchildren.
The family want Ms Nelson’s ordeal to serve as a warning to other women searching for love online.
‘We call her Mother Teresa because she thinks she can save everyone,’ daughter Ashlee Charles said.
‘She is a person who tries to see the good in everyone’.
Ms Nelson was the Greens candidate for the Western Australian seat of Pearce in the 2022 federal election.
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