Thursday 8 December 2016

Aussies released after brief encounter at Malaysian F1 Grand Prix

Published 06/10/2016 | 08:26

Australian men pose at the conclusion of the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix in Sepang (AP)
Australian men pose at the conclusion of the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix in Sepang (AP)

Nine Australians who were charged after stripping down to skimpy briefs at the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix have walked free without a conviction after pleading guilty to causing a public nuisance and apologising.

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The nine were detained on Sunday after they partied in Budgy Smuggler-brand swimsuits decorated with the Malaysian flag and drank beer from shoes in view of thousands of spectators at the Sepang track, after Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo won the race.

Defence lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said the court accepted his argument that it was a trivial offence and that the nine, dressed in suits for the hearing, were ignorant of the local culture and remorseful.

He said one of the nine read an apology to the court.

Mr Shafee said the court admonished the nine and discharged them without convictions.

Budgy smuggler is Australian slang for tight swimming trunks worn by men, and drinking out of a shoe was done to honour Ricciardo, who drinks out of his shoes to celebrate winning.

Mr Shafee said the men's actions were not illegal in most countries, including Australia.

"We are sensitive about it but they didn't know. They sincerely thought it was a respect and a celebration with Malaysians," he said.

"The court accepted my mitigation that this was a trivial offence and under extenuating circumstances because they misunderstood the local culture. They have been admonished by the court and released without conviction," he added.

He said one of the men fainted in court briefly due to dehydration.

The nine, mostly Sydney University graduates in their 20s, left the court without speaking to reporters. They included Jack Walker, an adviser to Australian defence industry minister Chris Pyne.

His father John Walker said they were very thankful.

"There's no charge, there's no fine and the boys apologised. They recognised what they did was unacceptable but they have been completely cleared and are free to travel and resume their lives," he said.

Ricciardo described the incident as "pretty harmless".

"I respect the laws of Malaysia, but beyond that I don't think they deserve any further punishment," he told Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

"In Australia, it's a bit different, but I'm very sure they didn't intend to offend anyone," he said.

Budgy Smuggler, the Sydney-based, family-owned firm, features on its website and social media photographs of customers wearing its swimwear in public locations, including in front of Westminster Palace in London and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The Australian media has dubbed the men the Budgie Nine, playing on nine Australians arrested in Indonesia for heroin trafficking in 2005 who became known as the Bali Nine.

AP

Press Association

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