Singaporean drug trafficker executed!

Singaporean drug trafficker executed!

Muhammad Ridzuan, Md Ali and accomplice Abdul Haleem Abdul Karim, were found guilty in the High Court for trafficking 72.05g of diamorphine (commonly known by its other name, heroin) on the 10th of April 2013. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, anyone caught with more than 15.0g of heroin is presumed to possess the drug for the purpose of trafficking, an offence for which the prescribed punishment is a mandatory death penalty.

 

Ridzuan was sentenced to death by the court on the 10th of April 2013 while Haleem, who pleaded guilty, was instead sentenced to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane.

 

Earlier in 2012, amendments were made to the Misuse of Drugs Act which gave judges the discretion not to pass the death penalty if the convicted had received a Certificate of Cooperation (COC) from the Prosecution which must have stated that he or she had ‘substantively cooperated’ in disrupting drug trafficking activities.

 

Criteria for Issuing the Certificate
Two requirements are needed for the Attorney General Chambers (AGC) to hand out a Certificate of Cooperation to avoid the death penalty.
  • The trafficker must have only played the role of courier, and must not have been involved in any other activity related to the supply or distribution of drugs.
  • discretion will only apply if, having satisfied this first requirement, either the trafficker has cooperated with the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) in a substantive way, or he has a mental disability which substantially impairs his appreciation of the gravity of the act.

 

Interpreting the two requirements above, two points can be made clear. The first is that the convicted must have provided ‘substantive cooperation’ to the CNB based on the information they supply before being given a Certificate of Cooperation and that the Public Prosecutor holds full power in determining whether the convict faces the mandatory death penalty.

 

Understanding ‘Substantive Cooperation.’
‘Substantive cooperation’ is defined as “substantively assisting in CNB’s operations to disrupt drug trafficking activities within or outside of Singapore.” In essence, it all boils down to how useful he or she is to the State. Regardless of how cooperative a convict is, if the information they provided is not deemed as useful in disrupting drug trafficking activities by the Public Prosecutor and the CNB, he or she may not receive a Certificate of Cooperation.

 

An issue arises when two equally culpable convicts of drug trafficking, are sentenced to the death and life imprisonment respectively, based on the fact that one was able to provide a ‘more substantive assistance’ over the other. How can we then differentiate the ‘substantive cooperation’ between the two?

 

In this case, both Haleem and Ridzuan had fulfilled the requirement of acting as couriers in the act of trafficking drugs. The difference is that the Public Prosecutor deemed Haleem to have provided a more ‘substantive cooperation’ and that the information provided by Haleem was materially different than Ridzuan’s. The Court of Appeal reasoned that although the charges of both men were the same, the level of involvement of each offender in the crime may differ. One may have recalled clearer details than the other (e.g., physical appearance of the syndicate members, vehicle license plate number, etc.) that would lead to actions that would result in an actual disruption of drug trafficking activities by law enforcement units.

 

Another instance where the Public Prosecutor may issue the certificate to one co-offender is when he or she provides information early on while the other may have deliberately withheld information until a later date. This is significant as the provision of early information may lead to an effective outcome to the disruption of drug trafficking activities. Hence, it is only prudent that the Public Prosecutor treats the co-offenders differently.

Public Prosecutor’s Sole Discretion

An argument often made against the Public Prosecutor’s sole discretion is that there is little to no way to ascertain the accountability of the decisions that they may make. Under s33B(4) of the Misuse of Drugs Act, transparency is not a factor in this process as there are no clear guidelines as to how the certificates can be issued. This could lead to a situation where the investigators and prosecutors have excessive power over a person’s life.

 

 In this case, the Court of Appeal finds that the Public Prosecutor need not declare anything because it may compromise the operations of the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), which is something that the Parliament wishes to avoid. If these procedures are made known to the public, it is likely that drug traffickers and syndicates will attempt to exploit loopholes around drug offences. This, of course, is against the public interest.

 

Unless the Appellant could establish that the Public Prosecutor had in bad faith not awarded him the COC he may repeal the denial of the COC on him. Bad faith here would mean that the Public Prosecutor either had not considered the facts provided, taken improper considerations into account and/or did not follow proper procedures which led to a failure in carrying out justice. That being said, the Judges have deemed that there was no ill intention towards Ridzuan by the Public Prosecutor based on the procedures of the case. As such, Ridzuan’s appeal was formally dismissed.

Conclusion

The Certificate of Cooperation is not intended to send a signal that Singapore has gone soft on drug traffickers but rather, it is a tool of the law to combat drug trafficking and capture the masterminds behind the couriers. The certificate is not an entitlement to a drug offender.

How Can We Help You

That being said, drug trafficking or drug consumption cases are delicate issues and may be too technical and complex for you to fully understand. Worry not, at I.R.B. Law; we have experienced lawyers who are well versed in Singapore Criminal Law proceedings. We will be able to guide you through and explain to you throughout each and every stage of your case. We understand that going through such an event in your life is difficult and emotional.

 

So contact us to receive advice on how case proceedings can be best handled so that you can focus on getting back up on your feet. Our first consultation is usually free as we wish to focus on you and not on your wallet. So don’t hesitate and reach us at hello@irblaw.com.sg or call us at 6298 2537 and schedule an appointment with one of our experienced lawyers today.