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Mum and daughter faced jail for importing tea – police never told them it tested negative for drugs 

How mum and daughter who were thrown in jail and threatened with life sentences after being wrongly accused of importing 25kg of speed might never see a CENT in compo – as it’s revealed cops never told them the haul tested negative for drugs

  • A mother and daughter were wrongfully jailed due to major police blunder
  • Connie Chong and Melanie Lim were sent to prison for importing Malaysian tea
  • Botched police tests detected a banned substance and they were charged 
  • They are are now seeking damages and taking legal action against NSW Police 

A mother and daughter who spent four months in jail wrongly accused of importing drugs were left behind bars even when the police knew there were problems with the drug test. 

A botched police investigation determined that Connie Chong and her daughter Melanie Lim were smuggling drugs, when in reality it was just ginger tea.

They were importing 25kg of Malaysian tea – which is said to help with period pain – to sell it in Australia, but in January two of their shipments were seized by Border Force agents at Sydney Airport.

The tea was wrongly identified as an amphetamine. 

Heavily-armed police officers raided the women’s Greenacre home in south-west Sydney, handcuffing them and discovering more of the substance. 

Pictured: Mother Connie Chong

Connie Chong (right) and her daughter Melanie Lim (left) were wrongly jailed for four months after a botched police investigation

The women were charged with commercial drug supply, which can lead to a lifetime prison sentence, and refused bail. 

They are now suing for costs, which the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions refuses to pay.

Sydney’s Downing Local Court heard on Tuesday that the police knew within weeks there was a problem with the case, but did not pass this information onto the women’s defence team, and they remained behind bars.

In April, an Australian Federal Police officer emailed Bankstown Detective Senior Constable Tara Conaghan to tell her laboratory results from two earlier seizures of similar products had determined that there were ‘no prohibited substances detected’.

‘Our forensics are engaging with the ABF over their testing,’ the officer wrote. ‘They advise it’s a training issue with the ABF on how they interpreted the results.’ 

But still the mother and daughter were left to languish in jail, with the possibility of remaining there for a life term hanging over their heads.

The women were finally released from jail in May, but the charges against them were not withdrawn until August 10, after the NSW Police got its own forensic analysis.  

Detective Conaghan said on Tuesday that after she learned from the AFP that its analysis of earlier seizures did not detect prohibited substances, she asked for forensic testing of the samples related to Ms Lim and Ms Chong to be expedited, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Ms Chong’s barrister, Steve Boland, cross-examined the detective, asking: ‘What did you do about disclosing that information to the two people who you had accused of drug importation?’ 

Investigators wrongfully determined the presence of a rare stimulant drug when in reality it was just ginger tea (pictured)

Investigators wrongfully determined the presence of a rare stimulant drug when in reality it was just ginger tea (pictured)

‘I didn’t inform the… do you mean Ms Lim and Ms Chong?’ asked Detective Conaghan.

‘The people who were in jail,’ replied Mr Boland.

‘I didn’t inform them,’ said Detective Conaghan.

‘Why not?’ asked the barrister. 

‘Because the drugs were still waiting to be completely tested,’ she said. 

‘So, what, they’ve got to sit it out in jail?’ asked Mr Boland.

After a period of silence, Mr Boland said: ‘I’ll assume that question is not going to be answered.’

Mr Boland told the court that neither the women nor their lawyers were told that there were questions over the veracity of the test conducted on their tea.

‘The Crown is opposing the idea that these falsely accused women should get a dollar,’ Mr Boland said. 

Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson adjourned the case to March.