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Filipino resident jailed nearly 17 years for trafficking $2m worth of drugs

20 September 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao

The High Court judge sent Benoza to jail for 16 years and 9 months

A Filipino former bartender was sentenced at the High Court to nearly 17 years in prison today, Sept. 20, for trafficking 3.6 kilograms of ketamine in January last year.

Richard Marc A. Benoza, 30, stared blankly at Court of First Instance Judge Audrey Campbell-Moffat as she sentenced him to 16 years and nine months in jail.

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“You pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking in a dangerous drug. You brought in from Bangkok 3,588 grams of ketamine on Jan 24, 2019,” Campbell-Moffat said.

The judge said Benoza left Hong Kong for Bangkok on Jan 22, 2019 with no luggage, stayed there for just two days and returned with a suitcase containing clothes, including women’s wear, and packets of ketamine disguised as dried mango and coconut meat.


She said the value of the dangerous drug would have been $2,057,200 had it successfully reached the Hong Kong market.

Campbell-Moffat gave Benoza a 25% discount after a persuasive mitigation by defense counsel, barrister Oliver Davies, who said that the failure of others to take care of the defendant when he was young had made him vulnerable to exploitation.


A kilo of ketamine would draw a 14-year jail sentence, and thrice that amount would draw no less than 18 to 20 years, Campbell-Moffat said. In Benoza’s case, the drug amount he brought in was more than three times, so, more than 20 years, she said.

The judge set a starting point of 20 years and six months, which she enhanced by two years because she said the defendant was encouraged by others to import drugs. She also cited the international element of the crime.

The ketamine that Benoza brought in from Thailand was packed as snacks

Davies said earlier in the session that trafficking dangerous drugs was out of character for his client, who was born in Hong Kong in 1990 to a Filipino couple but grew up with neither parent looking after him.

“When you’ve been left out by your parents, you become vulnerable,” Davies said.

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The lawyer said Benoza was only four years old when his parents divorced and left him in the care of relatives. At age 9, he ran away until he was taken by the Social Welfare Department and placed in the care of his maternal grandmother.

His father, who worked at the airport, had not contacted Benoza, the lawyer said. His mother, on the other hand, had left for Japan.

Benoza was educated up to Form 5 and did well in the school’s international program, said Davies. In 2001, he worked as a bartender in a pub in Exchange Square, Central, and lived with his girlfriend. Then he was enticed by some people to travel to Bangkok.

Davies said Benoza was aware that what he did was wrong but would not talk about the people who got him into trouble.

A handful of the defendant’s relative as well as his girlfriend attended the sentencing.

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