2 drug traffickers fail in bid to escape gallows

A drug trafficker convicted of a capital offence was sentenced to death in the High Court, although he had been certified by the Public Prosecutor (PP) to have cooperated with the authorities.

In the first such case here, the court found that Hamzah Ibrahim, 54, was not a courier, after a joint 16-day trial with two others.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, the court has the discretion not to impose the death penalty if the offender is a courier, and has also been issued a certificate stating he cooperated with the authorities.

Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Peng ruled that Hamzah's role "went beyond that of a courier".

"Hence, although the PP issued a certificate of substantive assistance, the alternative sentencing regime was not available," she said in judgment grounds issued last week.

Another of the accused in the joint trial for trafficking in 26.29g of heroin, Muhammad Farid Sudi, had also been certified to have "substantively assisted the Central Narcotics Bureau in disrupting drug trafficking activities".

Farid, who delivered the drugs to Hamzah and was merely a courier, escaped the gallows. He got the mandatory life sentence and 15 strokes of the cane.

The third offender, Tika Pesik, was not deemed a courier. She was sentenced to death.

Arrangements had been made for Farid to deliver two packets of heroin to Hamzah on Dec 20, 2013. Farid did so during a drive from a Senja Road multi-storey carpark to Dairy Farm Road.

Farid and Hamzah were arrested the same day. Tika was nabbed at Woodlands Checkpoint in 2014.

Farid and Tika each claimed trial to a single capital charge of drug trafficking. Farid was defended by lawyers Mahmood Gaznavi and M. Lukshumayeh, while Tika was represented by lawyers Mohamed Niroze Idroos and Mohamed Baiross.

Hamzah contested a single capital charge of possessing heroin for the purpose of trafficking. He was defended by lawyers Luke Lee and Sukdave Singh.

During the trial, Deputy Public Prosecutors Wong Woon Kwong and Sarah Shi argued that Hamzah was not a courier and had received the drugs, intending to repack them into smaller packets for sale.

Hamzah's lawyers meanwhile contended that he was merely a courier.

But "such a submission would, in the light of all the evidence, be unsustainable", noted Judicial Commissioner Hoo.

"It was evident that Hamzah's purpose after taking delivery of the drugs was to sell the drugs," she said, noting that he had brought along smaller empty plastic packets to repack and sell the drugs.

The judge also found that Tika could "not in any way be described as a courier", as she had coordinated the supply of drugs and had got Farid to deliver the drugs to Hamzah, among other things.

"Moreover, the PP did not issue Tika with a certificate of substantive assistance," added the judge in imposing the mandatory death sentence.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2017, with the headline '2 drug traffickers fail in bid to escape gallows'. Print Edition | Subscribe