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Singaporean drug courier spared death penalty

Drug courier given certificate of substantive assistance; will now serve life imprisonment and receive 15 strokes of cane.

SINGAPORE: A 42-year-old drug courier on Monday (May 26) became the latest to escape the gallows after a successful application to be resentenced under amended drug laws.

Yip Mun Hei, a Singaporean who trafficked 31 small packets of substance containing at least 18.43 grams of diamorphine, had received a certificate of substantive assistance for helping the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) in disrupting drug trafficking activities in Singapore.

In the High Court on Monday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng urged that Yip be resentenced to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane instead of the death penalty for “substantively helping” the CNB.

The court also heard that Yip had proved that his involvement in the offence was restricted to transporting the drug and did not include any preparatory acts or offer to deliver it.

The Misuse of Drugs Act was amended together with the Penal Code in 2012 to remove the mandatory death penalty for certain types of homicide and drug trafficking offences.

A drug trafficker must have played only the role of a courier and either have cooperated with the CNB in a substantive way, or have a mental disability that substantially impairs his appreciation of the gravity of the act.

On the morning of Jan 18, 2008, Yip was arrested at around Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 by a team of CNB officers following a lead. He was seen passing two plastic bags containing the drugs to Leong Soy Yip, his co-accused. Leong, 58, was also subsequently arrested and more drugs were found in his flat.

Both men were convicted on Sept 29, 2009 and sentenced to death.

In his application to be resentenced, Yip’s lawyer, Mr Wee Pan Lee, noted that the prosecution had at the trial submitted evidence that “went no further than to establish that his involvement was only that of transporting and delivering a controlled drug”.

Excerpts drawn from Yip’s cross-examination also showed that the prosecution’s position was that he was a courier.

Justice Tay Yong Kwang agreed with the Public Prosecutor and granted the direction.

Yip’s family was not present in court yesterday. It is not known if Yip’s co-accused, Leong, has applied for resentencing.

Drug traffickers Yong Vui Kong and Subashkaran Pragasam were the first drug traffickers to be resentenced after the amendment of the Act, to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane.

In March, Dinesh Pillai Raja Retnam, also a drug trafficker, became the first to be resentenced to life imprisonment on account of his “diminished responsibility” for the offence, because of a mental disability he was suffering from at that time.

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