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Apex Court dismisses appeals by Malaysian man on death row for 9 years for importing drugs

Apex Court dismisses appeals by Malaysian man on death row for 9 years for importing drugs

The entrance of the Supreme Court in Singapore.

SINGAPORE: The Court of Appeal on Monday (May 27) dismissed two appeals by a Malaysian man who has been on death row for nine years for importing drugs into Singapore.

Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, 31, was convicted and sentenced to death in November 2010 for importing 42.72g of heroin a year before.

He had been caught in April 2009 while entering Singapore from Malaysia at Woodlands Checkpoint with a bundle of diamorphine, or heroin, strapped to his thigh.

He had admitted to Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers that he knew the bundle contained heroin, explaining at the time that a friend known only as "King" had strapped it to his thigh so that no one would find it.

Nagaenthran's first appeal was to be re-sentenced under amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act that were passed in 2012. 

The amendments allow a court to sentence a drug offender to life imprisonment instead of death if they were merely a courier, on the condition that the public prosecutor issues the offender a certificate of substantive assistance - for helping CNB to disrupt drug trafficking activities.

Additionally, the court must also sentence the offender to life imprisonment if he or she was merely a courier and also suffering from an abnormality of the mind.

Nagaenthran's second appeal was for a judicial review into the public prosecutor's decision not to issue him a certificate of substantive assistance.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Andrew Phang, Judith Prakash, Chao Hick Tin and Belinda Ang on Monday upheld the High Court's decisions to dismiss both Nagaenthran's appeals.


The five judges found that Nagaenthran's vacillation between various accounts of why he had committed the crime did not aid his case, and instead contradicted his original reason - that he needed money - given in statements to CNB.

Nagaenthran had mounted a defence claiming he had delivered the bundle under duress from King, who allegedly assaulted him and threatened to kill his girlfriend.

He had also given an alternative account where he had transported the bundle out of a misguided sense of gang loyalty, but the court upheld the High Court's decisions to reject both defences.

Nagaenthran had been referred in 2013 to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for a forensic psychiatric evaluation, in order to assess if he was suffering from an abnormality of the mind and therefore suitable for resentencing under the 2012 amendments.

However, the IMH report found that Nagaenthran had no mental illness at the time of the offence and was not clinically mentally retarded, although his borderline range of intelligence might have made him more susceptible to believing King's purported threat to kill Nagaenthran's girlfriend.

He would not have failed to grasp that the package most likely contained drugs, and that bringing it into Singapore was illegal, said the report.

"This account has all the marks of being an afterthought, since it only emerged in late 2016," said the five judges.

Defence lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam had argued that by the time Nagaenthran was given the supposed opportunity to assist CNB in February 2013, it had become impossible to do so as "whatever potentially useful information (he) possessed was already outdated".

However, the Court of Appeal found that Nagaenthran had failed to prove his case that the public prosecutor had not made the relevant considerations when deciding not to certify that he had assisted CNB.

His lawyer told CNA that his next step is to make a petition to the president for clemency.

Source: CNA/ll(hm)


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