M’sian Who Was on Death Row Now Walk Free Due to New Evidence During Appeal

In Singapore, drug trafficking is a serious offence, which can lead to the death penalty.

A Malaysian man was originally sentenced to death for drug trafficking but has been acquitted of his death penalty on 1 November 2022. This decision was made after considering an appeal with new evidence.

Recap of The Incident 

The actual incident did not happen recently, but back in 2011, when some of us are too young to know what drugs are.

Mr Punithan Genasan, 37, a debt collector from Malaysia, was implicated by two drug couriers of masterminding a drug run into Singapore.

He had introduced the two couriers, Mr Shanmugam and Mr Suief, to each other back in 2011 at West Coast McDonald’s.

On 28 October 2011, he reportedly instructed one to drive into Singapore to meet the other while trafficking at least 28.5g of diamorphine. The duo was caught and Mr Punithan was also accused of taking possession of the car on 27 October 2011 and as the overall “mastermind”.

However, Mr Punithan said that he had never met up with the pair and was in Singapore on that day to collect a debt. He added that he was in Kedah celebrating Deepavali and couldn’t have passed the car to Mr Shanmugam.

As such, he requested for defence and an alibi (his wife and friend) but was rejected by High Court Judge Chan Seng Onn.

The judge felt that there was enough time for him to meet the drug couriers, even though he was there to collect a debt.

Additionally, Mr Punithan’s wife is an interested witness and the judge also felt that his friend might lie to protect him.

He was Given the Death Sentence in 2020

Mr Punithan’s trial started in 2018 and he was then given the death penalty via Zoom in 2020 for trafficking 28.5g of diamorphine to the republic via Zoom.

He was the first to be given the penalty during the Covid-19 pandemic via a remote hearing.

The Appeal and New Evidence Submitted

Mr Punithan provided new evidence including investigation statements from the couriers, a telco call trace report for one of the courier’s phones, and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) travel movement records of one of the couriers.

It was discovered that there were discrepancies in evidence as to the date and the time of day of the “alleged introductory meeting” at the previous trials.

Both Mr Shanmugam and Mr Sueif said that their meeting with Punithan supposedly took place in the afternoon or the evening.

However, according to ICA’s records of 12 October 2012, Mr Shanmugam was in Singapore from 7.24 am to 9.36 am, for just about two hours.

Meanwhile, Mr Punithan was in Singapore on 12 October 2012 from 7.04 am to 12.19 pm.

Therefore, a meeting between the two could only have taken place in the morning, and not the afternoon or evening as alleged by the couriers.

“It was therefore incumbent on the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the ‘alleged introductory meeting’ did take place in order to prove the common intention of the appellant and the couriers to traffic in the drugs,” said the Judge.

Hence, the court decided to free Mr Punithan from his criminal charge by a verdict of not guilty.

No Change in Charges Against the Other Two Drug Couriers 

While Mr Punithan is now set free, there is no change to the sentences of Mr Shanmugam and Mr Punithan.

Mr Shanmugam was sentenced to life imprisonment and given 15 strokes of the cane while Mr Suief was given the death penalty back in 2015.

Mr Punithan was extradited to Singapore on 21 January 2016, five days after he was arrested by the Malaysian police.

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