A High Court judge on Monday handed down a heavy sentence of 17 years and four months to a 26-year-old Hong Kong man for attempting to smuggle HK$840,000 (US$107,715) worth of crystal methamphetamine to Japan last May with his girlfriend.

The defendant, Lai Hiu-fung, had earlier pleaded guilty to one count of drug trafficking, Sing Tao Daily reported.

On May 20, 2016, Lai took his girlfriend, who was medically certified as having a mild mental disability, to an industrial building in Kwai Chung, where each of them put on a pair of shorts with secret pockets sewn inside containing packets of crystal methamphetamine.

Police intercepted the pair at the taxi stand of Terminal 1 of Hong Kong International Airport. The subsequent search yielded 36 and 32 packets of the illegal drug from Lai and his girlfriend, respectively, representing a combined weight of 2,786 grams.

Lai told the police that he had agreed to smuggle the drugs for a payment of HK$100,000 to clear his outstanding debts and a free holiday to Japan with his girlfriend, according to Apple Daily.

In sentencing, Her Honour Judge Anthea Pang noted that drug trafficking is a serious offense, particularly in cases involving international transit. She said the starting point for sentencing was 24 years.

Given that Lai had pleaded guilty, he was handed down a sentence of 17 years and four months, with one-third of the jail term reduced.