Schapelle’s brother: How I almost took the blame

Schapelle Corby's half brother James Kisina has admitted he would have claimed responsibility for the marijuana found in her boogie board bag had he anticipated the severity of the punishment in Bali and the decade-long "nightmare" his family would endure.

A 16-year-old Kisina spent a sleepless night in a Bali prison cell with Corby in 2004 after he carried his half sister's bag containing 4.1kg of marijuana through customs.

While he was released the following day, Corby served almost nine years in Kerobokan prison for importing marijuana into Bali before being released on parole in 2014.

Recounting the ordeal in a revealing and emotional interview on podcast The Clink, out on Monday, Kisina, 32, maintained their innocence and said the overwhelming global spotlight on his family left him "angry," "lost" and on a downward spiral to his own run-ins with the law in Queensland.

"When that occurred, when we got off that flight, my life changed dramatically," Kisina told The Clink's Brent Simpson, a reformed former bikie enforcer.

"I was just angry she was in there (prison) and people's opinions.

"I didn't really care about me. It was going around like, 'Oh, the brother did it'. I don't care. You don't want people talking bad about your family.

"Now thinking, I would have put my hand up for it."

WARNING Hold for Sunday Mail. James Kisina, half-brother of convicted drug smuggler Schapelle Corby, in Logan City. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
WARNING Hold for Sunday Mail. James Kisina, half-brother of convicted drug smuggler Schapelle Corby, in Logan City. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

Kisina maintained he travelled with Corby and friends Alyth Jeffers and Katrina Richards to meet his half-sister, Mercedes Corby, for a holiday in Bali in 2004, in his first international trip, and claims he collected Corby's boogie board bag from the excess baggage area in a tired bid to get through customs faster.

"I just wanted to get out of there," he said. "I've thrown the boogie board up… he (the customs officer) has opened up the boogie board bag and Schapelle helped. I walked off, I'm like 'this is going to take ages'. All I saw was Schapelle go back like that, just shocked."

"The customs officers, four of them just left, took the bag."

Shortly after the group were taken to an interview room - where the boogie board and the concealed bag of marijuana were placed on the table - and were questioned repeatedly by customs officers for a number of hours.

"First off they were pointing at me, saying 'Whose bag is this?' And then Schapelle's like 'That's my bag'," Kisina said.

Schapelle Leigh Corby crying in the cell at Denpasar District Court in Bali, Mar, 29, 2005. (Picture: Lukman/S/Bintoro)
Schapelle Leigh Corby crying in the cell at Denpasar District Court in Bali, Mar, 29, 2005. (Picture: Lukman/S/Bintoro)

The pair were taken to a Bali watch house, and in that time Kisina claims at least 20 customs and police officers handled the unsealed bag and its contents.

Kisina said he was "in awe" and "naïve" and didn't think the matter was serious until he and Schapelle had spent hours in questioning, which Mercedes translated from Balinese, as tipped-off media packed the watch house and tried to photograph them through the roof.

"Schapelle's saying 'No no, he's staying with me, we stay together'. People kept trying to split us up," Kisina said. "I was scared but I was pretty naïve; I was like, 'it's not us man; we're going'…. But that didn't happen."

"She (Mercedes) was like, "James, you both have to go, they are going to take you to another place and you have to stay there until tomorrow, until we get lawyers'."

"We didn't sleep (that night). Very little. I remember just comforting her and she was comforting me."

When he was released the following day Kisina said he still believed "she's going to be not long after me" and told Corby, "I'll see you soon".

A customs officer shows the bodyboard bag to the Judge during the Corby's trial at Denpasar District Court in Bali. Picture: Ap
A customs officer shows the bodyboard bag to the Judge during the Corby's trial at Denpasar District Court in Bali. Picture: Ap

"I'm pretty sure she was thinking the same thing, they can finger print it or get some forensic stuff," he said.

"Then from there on it was crazy. It was a nightmare for the family. All our lives changed then, especially for Schapelle, everyone."

"If I knew now, I would've said it was mine."

Kisina said they rehearsed their testimonies at length with their legal team and "got played" by a lawyer who wined and dined them at his large Balinese home.

"It was all about the money," he said.

Kisina was brought to tears remembering Corby's sentencing a year later, saying he didn't believe she got a fair trial.

"The sentencing that's what really hit, plus being televised," he said.

"Now looking back, that's why I'm tearing up, because I felt helpless, like I had no platform to express. All these people can talk about my family and have an opinion, but I can't.

"From there I was kind of in anger. I was just angry. I was lost… no direction."

"People thought I was this big time drug dealer or something."

Schapelle Corby with two girlfriends and her brother James after checking in for their flight to Bali in October 2004.
Schapelle Corby with two girlfriends and her brother James after checking in for their flight to Bali in October 2004.

The following year an 18-year-old Kisina was jailed after a violent drug-related home invasion in Brisbane, and suspended after serving 10 months behind bars.

He was held as a high profile prisoner and separated for up to two weeks because of his link to Corby.

"When I first walked in it was like (the movie) The Longest Yard when Adam Sandler walks in," Kisina said.

"Because it's all over the news … I just see everyone training in the yard and they all just rush up, 'hey you're Corby's brother" or "Corby, hey brother" and the screw's like "don't say nothing, keep walking".

"I was nervous but at the same time I was thinking, 'f--- I don't care what happens'."

Kisina had several run-ins with the law including being fined $750 for possessing cocaine in 2015.

He claims he was treated differently because of his relation to Corby and recalled fleeing from two police officers, one of whom knew him personally, after they approached him at a service station and asked to see in his pockets, in which he had a small amount of cocaine.

"I'm zigzagging, dodging the taser gun. They caught up with me, the car cuts in front and I rolled over. As he's got me down on the ground the dude's like, 'Take it easy', and he's like 'Don't worry about this one, this dude's big time'," he said.

Throughout that time period, Kisina was travelling to Bali to visit his half-sister in prison, saying he was often in tears over the "horrendous" conditions she was held in.

Visitors would pay staff to cut down waiting times and sat on the floor back-to-back in over-crowded rooms.

Kisina said Bali Nine duo Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran "helped her out a lot" and the latter painted an artwork for his eldest son, which he has kept for sentimental value since the pair's execution.

"They helped other prisoners too, just make the right choices. Schapelle was really close to them," he said.

Since Corby's return to Queensland, Kisina has been determined to turn his life around for the sake of his four young sons and his family's reputation.

After years working as a labourer following his release from prison, he opened a German sausage restaurant called King's Footlong in Loganlea, where he and his siblings grew up, which he is hoping to franchise by the end of the year.

"The reason I was angry when everyone had opinions on my family… back then there was no social media. I can't go around chasing them all up. That's why I've got to succeed," he said.

"They (my kids) are not going to learn the hard way."

He added: "I just see potential everywhere. I see these young kids walking around and I see me - walking around up to mischief, just bored."

"I'd like to give a lot more back and do a lot more things, but for that you need money. So for now I want to build my company up."

Listen to Kisina's full interview with Simpson on Podshape's The Clink, across all major streaming platforms, from tomorrow.

Meanwhile Corby is set to appear on the upcoming season of Channel 7's Dancing With The Stars.

Originally published as Schapelle's brother: How I almost took the blame



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