New Zealand man faces 18-year jail term in Indonesia's Bali for drugs

New Zealander Antony de Malmanche arrives for a trial over drugs possesion at Denpasar district court in Bali, Indonesia on June 11, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
New Zealander Antony de Malmanche arrives for a trial over drugs possesion at Denpasar district court in Bali, Indonesia on June 11, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA

DENPASAR, Indonesia AFP) - Indonesian prosecutors on Thursday recommended an 18-year jail sentence for a New Zealand man accused of trafficking crystal methamphetamine into the resort island of Bali.

Antony de Malmanche was detained with 1.7 kilograms of the drug hidden inside his backpack upon landing in Bali in December.

His family have claimed the 53-year-old was the victim of an online dating scam and that he was heading to Bali to see a woman he met on the Internet, who had made his travel arrangements.

However prosecutors said he was guilty of drug trafficking and called for him to spend 18 years behind bars, saying that 1,700 people could have consumed the drugs that he was transporting.

"What the defendant did could paint an image of Bali as a heaven for drug trafficking," prosecutor Siti Sawiyah told a court in the Balinese capital Denpasar.

The recommendation is lighter than the maximum penalty of death by firing squad for drug trafficking in Indonesia. Judges are not obliged to follow prosecutors' sentence recommendations.

The court is expected to decide on de Malmanche's case in the coming weeks.

Foreigners are frequently arrested for attempting to smuggle narcotics into hard-partying Bali, and some have been handed the death sentence.

Despite international protests, Indonesia executed seven foreign drug convicts in April, defending the move as a vital front of its "war" on drugs. Two Australians were among the group and Canberra recalled its ambassador from Jakarta in protest.

British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford, who was caught smuggling cocaine into Bali, is also on death row.