The family of an indigenous green candidate and community leader detained in Japan after being charged with drug trafficking say they were the victims of an elaborate online romance scam by a Nigerian.
Ballardong Njaki-Njaki’s wife Donna Nelson – who was the Greens’ candidate for Pearce’s seat in Western Australia in the 2022 federal election – was intercepted by Japanese authorities at Narita Airport near Tokyo in January .
The 56-year-old woman was arrested for alleged drug trafficking after she was found with drugs hidden in a bag.
Donna Nelson, Greens candidate for Western Australia, was arrested in Tokyo for alleged drug trafficking after she was found with drugs hidden in a bag
The family believe Ms Nelson, who is also chairwoman of a Western Australian Aboriginal Health Service, was forced or tricked into carrying the bag, which she had not packed in her luggage before leaving Australia .
They said Ms Nelson had been talking online with a Nigerian for two years before her arrest.
She has been held without charge since January 4, when she suddenly stopped responding to messages from family and friends shortly after arriving in the Japanese capital.
The family said their final message to their daughters was to stop being ‘clowns’ after they bombarded the family group chat with jokes about Japan’s freezing weather.
A tracking app later revealed she hadn’t moved from the airport for several hours after landing, sparking fears something was wrong.
Three days later, police and consular authorities confirmed to the family that Ms Nelson had been arrested by Japanese authorities on suspicion of drug trafficking.
The family was only able to contact her through her court-appointed lawyer.
Ms Nelson had traveled to Japan to meet the Nigerian man, known as ‘Kelly’, whom she had met two years earlier through an online dating site called AfroIntroductions.
Ms Nelson’s family claim she was the victim of an elaborate online scam by a Nigerian man known as ‘Kelly’ (Donna Nelson pictured bottom center with her family)
He claimed to be the owner of a high-end fashion brand.
Ms Nelson’s daughters told the Sydney Morning Herald the couple had been exchanging messages for months and discussed a trip to Brazil.
The girls also said the couple planned to marry in Nigeria, donning traditional African attire.
They said the man gained Ms Nelson’s trust by sending her a picture of a document he claimed was her Japanese residence card and offering to fund trips abroad for some of her daughters.
After successfully convincing Ms Nelson to visit her in Japan, “Kelly” bought business class tickets to take her to Tokyo via Singapore, Laos and Vietnam.
The family believe Ms Nelson met an associate of ‘Kelly’ during a three-day layover in Laos, where she ended up in possession of the bag which led to her arrest at the airport.
Donna Nelson (second from right) was the Greens’ candidate for the Pearce seat in Western Australia in the 2022 federal election
Ms Nelson’s daughter, Kristal Hilaire, said one of the hardest things for her to accept was that her mother’s heart would have “broken” realizing “that person didn’t love her”.
The girls said Ms Nelson’s lawyer was able to convey 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 looking for love online.
“We call her Mother Teresa because she thinks she can save everyone,” her daughter Ashlee Charles said.
“He is a person who tries to see the good in everyone”.
Under Japanese law, those suspected of committing a crime can be held for up to 23 days without charge and are not allowed to seek release pending charge.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed its involvement in the case but was unable to provide further comment for confidentiality reasons.