In a letter responding to Mr M Ravi, counsel for Mr Yong Vui Kong, the Court of Appeal has revealed two further charges made against Chia Choon Leng, the alleged drug syndicate mastermind in Yong’s case.
The two charges do not relate directly to Yong, and the Prosecution has all along declined to disclose them on the basis that they are irrelevant.
This latest twist in Yong’s case goes some way to painting a clearer picture of how much more culpable in the drug syndicate Chia was.
The two charges revealed against Chia were for trafficking an amount of heroin that triggered the death penalty.
More interestingly, the person Chia is alleged to have trafficked the drugs to was one Koh Bak Kiang, whose judgment is actually published and a matter of public record.
In Koh’s judgment, District Judge Wong Keen Onn noted that Koh had acted on Chia’s instructions and that Chia had “recruited him to run Chia’s or one of Jessie’s (Chia’s wife) errands. The errands included collecting and delivering small quantity (sic) of drugs”.
Justice Wong further noted that Chia seemed to have been part of a syndicate and that he and his wife were the “two persons who were planning and giving instructions”.
For reasons unknown, Chia never stood trial for these two, or any of the other 26 charges against him.
Yong’s latest appeal to the Court of Appeal is premised on alleged unequal treatment meted out to him vis-à-vis Chia.
In arguments before the Court of Appeal and filed in Court, Mr Ravi has submitted that it is a violation of Yong’s right to equal treatment under Article 12 of the Constitution of Singapore for Yong to be prosecuted under an offence carrying the mandatory death penalty while Chia, who was alleged to have been close to the criminal apex of the drug syndicate, is currently held in executive detention despite the Prosecution initially preferring up to 26 charges against him for trafficking and other drug related offences.
The Prosecution has resisted the disclosure of the other (nearly 20) charges against Chia on the basis that these charges are not relevant to the issues Yong has raised before the Court of Appeal. Mr Ravi makes the argument that this view of culpability is too narrow, and that the surrounding charges would clearly show (as in Koh’s case), Chia’s obviously greater culpability in the entire criminal enterprise than Yong.
In response to Yong’s current application, all the Prosecution has revealed is that the reason for the withdrawal of the 5 charges made against Chia in relation to Yong was because of ‘insufficient evidence’. They have also refused to justify their decision to charge Yong with a capital crime, but not Chia.
The one who got away.
Of particular note in Koh’s judgment is the fact that Koh had his charge reduced for testifying against Chia: Koh was charged with trafficking 14.99 grams of diamorphine. In sentencing, the Judge also took into account and gave “substantial weight” to the fact that Koh was willing to be a prosecution witness.
This is significant for Yong as part of his argument hinges on the fact that he was at all times a compellable witness against Chia and could have, under appropriate conditions, testified against Chia. He merely expressed a concern to testifying in open court for fear of his family’s safety.
Under this argument, Yong should have been given an opportunity to take advantage of the same opportunity that Koh did and it was unreasonable for the Prosecution not to allow him to do so given the obvious public policy reasons for capturing someone higher up in the syndicate chain.
After all, in his statements to the police, Yong identified Chia as the person who supplied him with the drugs to bring into Singapore. During his trial, Yong also repeatedly referred to Chia as his ‘boss’.
The newly revealed charges raise many more questions that the Prosecution has yet to satisfactorily answer.
How could the Prosecution not have sufficient evidence against Chia in Yong’s case if there were ample findings of fact through Koh’s case that Chia was pretty high up in a drug syndicate hierarchy? Surely this, combined with Yong’s evidence, would be sufficient to secure a conviction against Chia in Yong’s case?
Finally, the fact that the Court has now taken the initiative to disclose an additional two charges against Chia to the Defence makes it untenable for the Prosecution to continue asserting that the remaining 20 or so charges against Chia are irrelevant.
If the Court of Appeal finds the charges relevant enough to disclose, shouldn’t the Prosecution?
This article is written exclusively for TOC by 'We Believe in Second Chances'.