KOROR: DHL heir and convicted drug trafficker Larry Hillbroom Jr was given permission Tuesday to leave the Pacific nation of Palau to undergo addiction therapy, with a judge citing his wealth as a major factor in the decision.
The multi-millionaire has long battled substance abuse issues and was convicted in June of trafficking methamphetamine in the tiny island country.
He briefly went on the run in July after failing a drugs test while on probation and faced court on Tuesday.
Associate Justice Lourdes Materne said she would allow Hillbroom to leave Palau for treatment because there were no rehabilitation programmes on the island.
“I find myself giving you another chance,” she said.
“One thing that can’t be ignored is that he is an addict, and that he has a problem.
“You have been given many chances,” she added.
Prosecutors asked for a 30-year sentence but Materne said Hillbroom’s wealth meant he was in a unique position to seek treatment that was unavailable in Palau.
However, she said she would impose the 30-year term if he did not complete the rehabilitation programme or failed another drug test after returning to Palau.
Hillbroom, who holds US and Palau passports, is the son of the late Larry Hillblom, co-founder of the freight giant DHL, although their surnames are spelled differently.
He is one of four illegitimate children sired by Hillblom and successfully sued for a share of the billionaire businessman’s fortune after Hillblom died in a plane crash in 1995.
Hillbroom’s inheritance has been estimated at $100 million, although he said last year that financial mismanagement meant it was now much less.
Hillbroom, normally based in the United States, was visiting Palau in 2016 when he was arrested for allegedly arranging for two women to smuggle methamphetamine from the Philippine capital Manila to Palau.
After admitting to drug trafficking in June he was sentenced to 10 years’ probation and fined $50,000 as part of a plea bargain.
The deal angered Palau President Tommy Remengesau, who said at the time that the country’s zero-tolerance policy on drugs should apply to all people, regardless of their wealth.
Remengesau was out of the country attending the UN General Assembly in New York when the latest decision was handed down and was not available for comment.