Once more, Singapore steps into the limelight of capital punishment as another Malaysian is meted out with the death penalty for drug trafficking in Singapore.
Meanwhile, the Singaporean who was involved in this incident was spared from the hangman’s noose and was given life imprisonment instead.
Here’s how it all happened.
The Events of 2016
On 26 July 2016, Malaysian Kishor Kumar Raguan rode his motorcycle through Singapore customs to deliver a bag that contained more than 900 grams of a powdery substance which was later identified as heroin.
The four bundles inside the bag Kishor brought in contained a total of 36.05 grams of heroin.
Singaporean Pung Ah Kiang, Kishor’s brother-in-law, had received the bundle of drugs near his Paya Lebar condominium, though he was swiftly arrested by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) on his walk back to his residence.
He was then escorted back to his condominium, where more drugs were found.
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act in 1973, Second Schedule of Offences Punishable on Conviction, it states the following: “(4) Unauthorised import or export of controlled drug containing such quantity of diamorphine (otherwise known as heroin) being – (b) more than 15 grammes”, will be sentenced to death.
When you compare the amounts stated in Singaporean law and what was brought over, it is evident what the verdict for the two men was bound to be, even if you divided the burden by half.
Kishor Kumar Raguan’s Defence
Since Kishor was the initial carrier of the illegal goods, let’s begin with his defence first.
In the eyes of the Court and Law, the Mens Rea—which translates to “guilty mind” in Latin and refers to “criminal intent”—is especially important when convicting a particular defendant of a crime.
The prosecution of the case argued that Kishor was aware that he was delivering “kallu”, a street name for heroin, and was told to collect $6,000 from Pung.
They also stated that Kishor had acted as a middleman for many drug transactions, and he was deeply involved in the drug trade.
In response, Kishor gave a few points in defence of himself:
- He had merely been promised RM500 (S$163) for delivering an object and was told that the object felt “like a stone”.
- He had assumed that they could either be decorative stones or rocks and he did not think too much about the contents.
- He claimed that he had unsealed the black tape on the bundles, but he didn’t recognise the “brown coloured things” inside
- When Pung handed him a white envelope later, he declared that he didn’t know what it contained.
From the statements made, it is evident that Kishor is trying to remove any kind of knowledge about what he was actually doing to prove his own innocence.
Pung Ah Kiang’s Refutations
On the other hand, Pung contested the willingness and accuracy of seven of Kishor’s statements.
Reportedly, Pung had refuted Kishor’s statements because his investigative officer promised that he would help him if he used the words “bai fen” (white powder in Mandarin, also another name for Heroin”, and “du pin” (means drugs in chinese) in his statements.
In doing so, it would prove that both of them had been aware of the illegal contents, thereby proving the criminal intent behind their actions.
Furthermore, Pung claimed that he felt “forced” to take and store the drugs in his house temporarily to keep harmony in the family until his brother-in-law’s friends came to collect them.
The reason was that his wife’s brother had also been sending dog food, cat food, biscuits and Chinese medicine through intermediaries from the end of 2014 to 2016 to him, so he felt obligated to help his brother-in-law in return, even pressuring his own wife into agreeing with the arrangement.
The High Court’s Judgement
In the written court documents released on Friday (4 Feb), High Court Justice Audrey Lim stated that there was proof beyond reasonable doubt that Kishor and Pung knew that the bundles contained heroin.
Kishor had been told that the bundles contained “kallu”, whilst the inconsistency of Pung’s statements and actions plus the handing over of the money signified that he was aware of what the contents of the transactions were.
His condominium had effectively been a storehouse of sorts for the drugs.
Therefore, the judge rejected Kishor’s defence that he genuinely thought the bundles contained innocuous stones, especially given that he was heavily involved in the drug business, and there was no way he didn’t know what he was delivering.
She also rejected Pung’s statement that he was simply keeping the goods temporarily for his brother-in-law, since he was also aware of the transgressions occurring in the background.
The only reason why their sentences were different was because Pung was certified by the prosecution to have provided substantial assistance in disrupting the drug trafficking activities.
In voluntarily confessing and recording those statements against Kishor, albeit inconsistently when compared with other portions of his statements, it was enough to lighten Pung’s sentence from death penalty to life imprisonment.
Since Kishor did not give any form of aid to the CNB, and chose to deny having any knowledge of the actual activities going on in the background, Justice Lim had seen fit to dole out the mandatory death sentence for him.
In light of how the case of “#SaveNagaenthran” is still ongoing, which is a petition-campaign to liberate Nagaethran from the death row since he has been shown to be mentally impaired and under duress during the act of trafficking itself, the surfacing of this case must have rattled some nerves once more since yet another Malaysian is being dealt the death sentence.
Heck, it might even bring up questions of biasness in the High Court since a Singaporean was spared from the gallows in spite of his involvement with the drug trafficking, while foreigners have always been met with the harder end of the gavel.
The firing squad of comments against capital punishment can be well-imagined, though Kishor’s case is more clear-cut than Nagaethran’s, since the former had clear criminal intent whilst the latter has been repeatedly proven to be of unsound mind; intellectually and cognitively incapable of processing the consequences or obtaining true justice for himself, during the criminal act and at the court stands.
While Nagaethran possesses a modicum of hope for clemency as his case has been adjourned again on 25 January, Kishor doesn’t seem to stand the same chances.
Nonetheless, capital punishment is a controversial topic.
The final verdict, too, has been given.
Pung will spend the rest of his days in prison, whereas Kishor will inevitably have a noose tied to his neck, if his later appeals fail to go through.
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