Delivery driver's defence fails; he gets death for trafficking heroin
He could not convince judge he did not know he was delivering heroin
A delivery driver who failed to convince a high court judge that he did not know he was delivering drugs has been handed the death penalty after being convicted of drug trafficking.
Mohamed Shalleh Abdul Latiff's defence during a seven-day trial that ended on Jan 28 hinged on the claim that he thought the three bundles he had been tasked to deliver contained contraband cigarettes.
But the bundles were found to contain 54.04g of diamorphine, also known as heroin.
The Misuse of Drugs Act provides for the death penalty if the amount trafficked exceeds 15g.
In her grounds of decision released last Wednesday, High Court Judge Hoo Sheau Peng said Mohamed Shalleh had failed to successfully rebut the statutory presumption that he knew he was carrying the drugs.
At the end of the trial, Justice Hoo passed the mandatory death sentence on Mohamed Shalleh. There were no details on his age and nationality.
On Aug 11, 2016, Mohamed Shalleh received a plastic bag and three bundles wrapped in brown paper, packed in separate ziplock bags, from Malaysian Khairul Nizam Ramthan.
Each bundle was round, irregularly shaped and about the size of a palm.
Mohamed Shalleh passed the Malaysian man $7,000, which had been given to him by a friend he knew as "Bai", who had arranged the delivery. The men parted ways in separate cars.
Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers tailed both men and arrested Mohamed Shalleh at Mei Ling Street, where he was due to deliver the goods to a third party. The Malaysian man was arrested at Woodlands Checkpoint. Mohamed Shalleh maintained he had been delivering contraband cigarettes for Bai, who said it would offset some of the debt that Mohamed Shalleh owed him.
However, Justice Hoo picked at the defence that he had trusted and believed Bai's word that the delivery concerned cigarettes only.
Mohamed Shalleh had met Bai in prison in 2008, but they then lost contact.
They became re-acquainted in 2014 at the Singapore Turf Club, where Mohamed Shalleh would place bets with Bai, a bookie there. He accumulated debt of at least $7,000.
They met again at a friend's wedding in 2016, where Bai gave him more time to repay his debt.
Among the reasons cited for his trust in Bai, Mohamed Shalleh said he believed the former's claim that he dealt in contraband cigarettes.
He added that Bai had not insisted he repay his debt and that their mutual friends had said Bai could be trusted.
Justice Hoo said these points were "weak support" for the strong claim of trust placed in Bai, and noted that during cross-examination, Mohamed Shalleh said he did not know basic details about Bai, including his actual name or address.
He also claimed the three bundles had been placed inside the plastic bag when he received them and that he had not seen the bundles until CNB officers searched his car.
However, Justice Hoo noted this ran contrary to the evidence given by CNB's senior staff sergeant Tay Keng Chye, who testified the bundles were found beside the plastic bag on the floorboard of the car. The judge added that the round and irregular shape of the bundles should have aroused suspicion about the nature of the contents.
In her concluding remarks, Justice Hoo said the covert and complex nature of the delivery should have triggered suspicion as to the value and nature of the goods.
For this to be overlooked, a high degree of trust in Bai would have had to be found. But this was not borne out by evidence.
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