A hangman’s noose

The High Court has rejected a convicted drug trafficker’s claim that he had an alibi on the day of the alleged offence, which was raised only after his appeal against conviction and the death sentence had been dismissed.

Justice Choo Han Teck described the defence by 47-year-old Norasharee as an afterthought in his 11-page written judgment dated 14 September 2020 (Monday).

On that same day, counsel for Norasharee, Mr M Ravi, and Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPP) Yang Ziliang and Daphne Lim, had appeared before the judge to make oral arguments on two other grounds which Mr Ravi had raised in an attempt to set aside Norasharee’s conviction. These grounds were dismissed by the judge after hearing oral arguments, but his full reasons for rejecting them can also be found in the written judgment made available immediately after the hearing ended around 10.50am.

Mr Ravi, in response to queries, expressed his intention to raise the argument before the Court of Appeal that Justice Choo had prepared the written judgment well before oral arguments were heard on the new grounds raised, as it was unlikely for the judge to be able to do so within the extremely short span of time between the dismissal of the oral arguments and the written judgment being made available to counsel, and thus giving rise to a powerful possibility of apparent bias by predetermination.

Norasharee was charged for abetment of drug trafficking, namely, by instigating one Mohamad Yazid bin Md Yusof (“Yazid”) to traffic in not less than 120.90g of diamorphine. While the act in question took place in question on 23rd October 2013, Norasharee was only arrested nearly two years later in July 2015.

At the joint trial, Yazid alleged that Norasharee had personally met him at VivoCity on the day in question and told him to collect the drug bundles from a Malaysian courier. Norasharee’s defence at the trial was that he was at VivoCity to have lunch with one Lolo (or “Lolok”), whose real name was Mohammad Faizal bin Zainan Abidin, his supervisor and colleague at Marina Keppel Bay.

The trial judge found, and the Court of Appeal agreed, that Yazid had no motive to frame Norasharee. Both courts also accepted Yazid’s evidence as truthful and found Norasharee’s evidence to be inconsistent. As a result, Norasharee was convicted of the charge he faced and sentenced to death in June 2016. Norasharee’s appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in March 2017. His petition to the President for clemency was subsequently rejected.

In July 2018, Norasharee, who was represented by Mr Gino Hardial Singh then, filed an application to re-open his concluded appeal on the basis that his trial and appeal counsel, Mr Amarick Singh Gill, had not called Faizal as a witness against his instructions.

In August last year, the Court of Appeal was of the view that there might have been some miscommunication between Mr Gill and Lolok, and therefore granted leave for Norasharee to adduce fresh evidence on the alibi defence.

When Lolok took the stand, he testified that he would had lunch with Norasharee “almost every day”, and notably he was involved in an argument with Norasharee on the day of the alleged offence – by making fun of a two-tone tan line on Norasharee’s forehead – which was recorded in a logbook onboard the vessel they cleaned.

As against this, Justice Choo ruled that there were material discrepancies between Lolok’s and Norasharee’s accounts of events during the material time. He also found Lolok to be contradictory and inconsistent between written declarations, and Lolok’s “late appearance” further undermined his credibility.

Mr Ravi had further raised the argument that Norasharee had suffered a miscarriage of justice due to non-compliance with the law and other failures in the investigation process by the Central Narcotics Bureau, such as failing to investigate Norasharee’s line of work and place of employment and failing to seize documents therefrom, as the logbook which purportedly supported Lolok’s testimony, could not be recovered and tendered as evidence.

This argument was rejected on the basis that there was “no apparent necessity” for CNB to investigate in such a manner as the authorities were not aware of the significance of Norasharee’s employment and/or his relationship with Lolok.

The correctness of Norasharee’s conviction will now be reviewed by the Court of Appeal at a subsequent hearing to be fixed.

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