Two men have been jailed for collecting almost half a kilogram of cocaine that arrived in Perth from Panama. Juan Pablo Rivas Cristancho, 33, was convicted after a trial while Christian Alonso Alvarez Muriel, 28, pleaded guilty. Rivas claimed during his trial that he was receiving a package for his friend and did not know what was inside until he opened it with Alvarez. But Judge Anette Schoombee rejected that suggestion when she sentenced the Colombia-born pair in the Perth District Court on Tuesday. "The text messages that you exchanged with Mr Alvarez approximately 18 days before the parcel was delivered clearly indicate that you were both involved in knowing that parcels were arriving and in tracking those parcels," she said. Alvarez - who is married to an Australian woman and is a father of one with another child due next year - told police he had become indebted to someone in Colombia when he arrived in Australia. He said he feared for his family in Colombia if he did not repay the debt, although he also insisted he did not know what was in the package.
Judge Schoombee said it was difficult to know what the truth was because both men continued to deny knowledge of the drugs. "To some extent it would have been better if you had taken the court into your confidence and had told us the truth," she said. Judge Schoombee said there was no evidence to suggest the pair had organised the purchase of the cocaine or were going to be directly involved in the distribution of the drug. But she added she could not take into account as a mitigating factor that there was pressure on them to accept the parcels. Alvarez was sentenced to three years and two months behind bars, but with parole could be released after two years. Rivas was jailed for three years and eight months, and with parole could be released after two years and four months.