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The Straits Times
Apr 14, 2023
A 70-year-old man who went out on his personal mobility device (PMD) with $9,000 one early morning four years ago, and exchanged the cash for a bag of drugs, was convicted of heroin trafficking on Friday.
Packets of heroin were recovered from the PMD belonging to Low Sze Song, a Singaporean, after his arrest.
Sivaprakash Krishnan, a 35-year-old Malaysian who handed him the drugs, was similarly convicted of trafficking 43.2g of pure heroin.
The law provides for the death penalty if the amount of heroin trafficked exceeds 15g.
Both men were found by the High Court to be drug couriers, which means they are eligible to be sentenced to life in prison instead of the death penalty if specific conditions are met.
Drug couriers can get life imprisonment if they are certified by the prosecution to have substantively assisted the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) in disrupting drug trafficking activities, or if they had a mental abnormality that substantially impaired their responsibility for their acts.
At about 6.20am on May 30, 2019, at a bus stop in Sumang Walk in Punggol, Sivaprakash, who was on his motorcycle, handed Low a white plastic bag containing packets of drugs, while Low passed Sivaprakash a stack of cash totalling $9,000.
They were separately arrested by CNB officers soon after.
Both men were jointly tried before Justice Dedar Singh Gill in a trial that began in July 2022.
Prosecutors contended that the two men were in possession of four packets of drugs, which was corroborated by DNA evidence found on the drug bundles and the plastic bag.
Low argued that Sivaprakash handed him only three packets of drugs.
He claimed that the fourth packet, which contained 8.64g of heroin, was not recovered from the PMD.
He relied on a photograph that showed the plastic bag and three packets of drugs. The photo was used by a CNB officer to record a statement from Low, who was not questioned about the fourth bundle.
Photo: Court documents
Both men also argued in their defence that they had no knowledge of the nature of the drugs.
In his written judgment on Friday, Justice Gill rejected their contentions.
He said Low’s assertion that he did not check the contents of the plastic bag was at odds with the undisputed evidence that his DNA was found on the interior of the bag.
Low had also argued that the circumstances were not so highly suspicious that he should have inquired into the contents of the bag.
Low said he was instructed to pass $9,000 to a man wearing a red helmet, and did not consider it a large sum of money in the light of his history with crimes including armed robbery, association with secret societies, and credit card fraud.
But the judge said the substantial sum would naturally have raised questions in the mind of any reasonable person of the nature of the contents of the bag.
Sivaprakash argued that he believed that he was delivering “paan parak”, a form of betel nuts, because an acquaintance had asked him to do so, but Justice Gill found this to be implausible.
He said: “Sivaprakash was unable to explain why, if he really believed that the drug bundles were ‘paan parak’, there was a need to pack and deliver them in such a clandestine manner as that which took place, why he was paid RM1,000 (S$300) to make a delivery of ‘paan parak’ and why he received $9,000 in cash from Low in the course of the delivery.”
Justice Gill also concluded that the fourth drug bundle was in fact recovered from the PMD.
He said the omission of the fourth bundle from the photo does, at first blush, gave room to pause.
But the testimonies from the arresting CNB officers relating to the search of the PMD were convincing and corroborated by a field diary entry recorded by one of the officers, he said.
Low’s DNA was also found on the adhesive sides of the taped packaging of the fourth bundle.
“In the light of this, the omission of the fourth drug bundle from the photograph and from Low’s contemporaneous statement was perhaps a lapse, but insufficient to raise a reasonable doubt that the fourth drug bundle had not been seized from the PMD.”