SINGAPORE: A Malaysian man set to be sentenced for illegally staying in Singapore since 1995 had his conviction set aside by a judge on Friday (Aug 16) over a technicality with the charge.
Choo Juan Suan, 64, had pleaded guilty last month to one charge of entering Singapore without a valid pass before or sometime in 1995.
He stayed in Singapore illegally for 23 years until he was arrested late last year.
However, when he returned to court on Friday to be sentenced for the offence, his defence lawyer Wee Hong Shern told the court that there was an issue with the charge.
This was because the ICA prosecutor had flagged to the defence lawyer earlier that the punishable provision under the Immigration Act would not be applicable for the offence as it was last amended in 2011 and there was a need to relook into it because the offence was committed in 1995.
The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) prosecutor told the court he would need to consult with the Attorney-General's Chambers before proceeding further.
When he heard this, District Judge Edgar Foo exclaimed: "Luckily we haven't sentenced (him)."
He rejected the plea Choo had made and set aside the conviction, adjourning the case for two weeks for a fresh plea to be taken.
Choo had been arrested in November in a flat at Beo Crescent, after ICA officers conducting a random check found that he was unable to produce evidence to show that he was in Singapore lawfully.
After he was arrested, Choo claimed that he had entered Singapore illegally sometime in 1995.
Based on particulars he provided, the ICA Data Processing Branch tried to trace his entry records into Singapore but could not find any indicating that he had entered through any gazetted entry point.
The current penalties for entering Singapore without a valid pass are a maximum sentence of up to six months' jail, at least three strokes of the cane or a fine of up to S$6,000 in lieu of caning.