Man caught at Changi Airport trying to smuggle 177 cocaine pellets to Thailand gets jail, caning

Man caught at Changi Airport trying to smuggle 177 cocaine pellets to Thailand gets jail, caning

A view of Changi Airport Terminal 4 in Singapore
A view of Changi Airport Terminal 4 in Singapore, April 3, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su/Files

SINGAPORE: A man who had transported drugs from Brazil to Thailand on several occasions was finally caught last year when he tried to board a flight at Singapore's Changi Airport. 

South African Marsland Andrew John, 49, was on Wednesday (Oct 9) sentenced to 26 years' jail and 15 strokes of the cane, after pleading guilty to one count of trying to export a Class A controlled drug from Singapore.

The court heard that Marsland was recruited by a person named Tony in South Africa to deliver drugs, and was promised US$2,000 (S$2,760) for each successful job.

He had completed four such jobs transporting drugs from Sao Paulo in Brazil to Bangkok via Phnom Penh or Phuket, and was on his fifth and final job when he came to Singapore.

Marsland was initially meant to fly from Sao Paulo through Zurich and Singapore to Phnom Penh in Cambodia, but received a call from Tony telling him that one of their female couriers had experienced problems in Cambodia.

The plan was then changed for him to fly to Phuket instead on a Jetstar flight from Singapore.

Marsland collected the drugs in a black paper bag from a restaurant toilet in Sao Paulo on Jul 28 last year, and counted to make sure there were 177 pellets which contained cocaine.

He then wore customised shorts containing 150 of the pellets. He also squeezed three condoms containing nine pellets each between his skin and the shorts, before putting on a pair of long trousers.

FLIGHT CHANGE MEANT LUGGAGE WOULD NOT BE TRANSFERRED

Marsland took a flight from Brazil to Zurich, then boarded a Singapore Airlines flight from Zurich to Singapore, informing the staff about the change in his flight itinerary to Phuket instead of Phnom Penh.

When he arrived at Changi Airport's Terminal 3 on Jul 31, 2018, Marsland realised he would miss his Jetstar flight to Phuket because of the time taken to collect his luggage bags, which would no longer be transferred by the airline to the original Phnom Penh flight.

He bought an AirAsia ticket for another flight from Singapore to Phuket and entered the departure area at Terminal 4, intending to travel to Phuket with the drugs, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Gabriel Lim.

He checked in his luggage bags and cleared immigration before heading to the centralised screening area, where security checks including the use of a body scanner are conducted.

Fearing that the drugs on his body would be detected, Marsland lied to the aviation security officer that he could not go through the scanner as he had a pacemaker. He was allowed to pass the gantry without going through the scanner.

The officer performed a security pat-down on Marsland and felt hard objects surrounding his waist. When asked about it, Marsland said his waist area was thicker as he was wearing shorts inside.

The officer pat him down again and confirmed that there were hard objects on his body. He was escorted to a room where he was searched by officers from aviation security and the Central Narcotics Bureau.

The officers found three condoms each containing nine pellets with white substances, as well as 150 pellets with white substances in them. Marsland was arrested.

The 177 pellets were later found to contain at least 2,303.6g of compressed powdery substance that contained at least 1,617.19g of cocaine, a Class A controlled drug.

SINGAPORE'S POSITION AS TRANSPORT HUB EXPLOITED: PROSECUTION

The prosecution had pushed for the sentence that was eventually meted out, saying Marsland had attempted to export a significant amount of cocaine.

He said Marsland was fully aware that he was part of a plan to transport cocaine from a distant source in Brazil to Southeast Asia.

"The entire enterprise involved the exploitation of Singapore’s position as an international transport hub within the region," said the prosecutor, adding that "the problem of the illegal drugs trade in the region is a grave and pressing one".

He said there was a strong public interest to deter potential offenders and drug syndicates from using Singapore as a point of entry into the region, and that this is necessary to preserve Singapore's reputation as a jurisdiction with a tough and effective stance on drug offenders.

"The above is all the more important given Singapore’s unique geographical location and the difficulties in detecting the entry and exit of illegal drugs into and out of our borders," said Mr Lim.

Marsland had initially been given a charge punishable by death, but was convicted of a lesser charge with the maximum penalty of life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane.

Defence lawyer Nandwani Manoj Prakash told CNA that the reduced charge was a result of a plea bargain.

Source: CNA/ll(gs)

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