A delivery driver from Malaysia will have to face the death penalty for being involved in a drug transaction more than 6 years ago, after losing his appeal on Friday (8th May) morning.
One of the masterminds behind the transaction, 38-year-old Mohammad Rizwan bin Akbar Husain, also lost his appeal that morning alongside Saminathan Selvaraju, in a case which the Court of Appeal – in the words of Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang – described as unusual.
The reason: both men were not arrested at the scene of the drug transaction, but only subsequently and after some time; Rizwan was arrested a week after, while Saminathan was arrested four months after the alleged offence.
The drug transaction in question took place at Quality Road on the night of 20th November 2013, where Saminathan, driving a trailer from Malaysia into Singapore, approached the car belonging to one Zulkarnain bin Kemat and placed some bundles in the car while Zulkarnain was present. Rizwan’s black Mitsubishi Lancer was also present.
Afterwards, the three vehicles left and officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau tailed each of them. Zulkarnain was subsequently arrested that night; however, Rizwan and Saminathan were not arrested that night as the CNB officers lost sight of Rizwan’s car at Tampines Avenue 7 while Saminathan entered Tuas Checkpoint and left for Malaysia. 35 bundles containing not less than 301.6g of diamorphine were recovered from Zulkarnain.
Rizwan then left Singapore illegally by hiding himself in the boot of a car, but was arrested by Malaysian authorities and handed over to the Singapore authorities on 29th November 2013. Saminathan was eventually identified through system records, and he was arrested in March 2014 when he entered Singapore.
After a trial spanning 1.5 years, all three men were found guilty of drug trafficking in March 2018; Zulkarnain was sentenced to life imprisonment as he was a mere courier and had a certificate of substantive assistance from the Prosecution; while Rizwan and Saminathan were sentenced to death as they did not have the certificate of substantive assistance.
The Court of Appeal – which also included Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash and Justice Woo Bih Li – rejected applications by Rizwan and Saminathan to introduce fresh evidence during an earlier hearing in November last year. The substantive appeals were heard in January this year and judgment was then reserved.
The judges rejected Rizwan’s arguments that he had lent his car to another person and that Zulkarnain had falsely identified him as being present at the scene of transaction that night, finding Zulkarnain’s identification corroborated by other extrinsic evidence and Rizwan’s account “unconvincing”.
Further, the Court of Appeal, just as the trial judge did, found that Rizwan’s action in fleeing to Malaysia in the boot of a car following the drug transaction pointed to his guilt.
Saminathan’s defence of impersonation, i.e. that someone had impersonated him in entering Singapore and handed the drugs to Zulkarnain, was also dismissed as a “fortuitous confluence of several highly unlikely coincidences”; for example, it required the impersonator to have a facial resemblance to Saminathan in order to pass the visual inspection by checkpoint officers, and that Saminathan’s passport must have coincidentally been left in the trailer and spotted by chance. Apart from that, Saminathan’s DNA was also found on the drug bundles.