Former Singaporean unionist cleared of importing $6m worth of drugs into Australia after retrial

Mr V. Jayakody at the signing of an agreement between the PSA and Port Workers Union in June 1973.
Mr V. Jayakody at the signing of an agreement between the PSA and Port Workers Union in June 1973. PHOTO: ST FILE

A Singaporean man accused of bringing A$6 million (S$6 million) worth of the drug Ice into Australia was found not guilty by a Perth jury on Monday (Feb 15).

Mr V. Jayakody, a prominent unionist in the 1970s, was arrested in July 2014 at Perth International Airport after 2.2kg of methylamphetamine was discovered in the lining of the suitcase he brought from Singapore.

The methylamphetamine, known commonly as Ice, was found to be high-grade with a purity of 80 per cent.

However, the 75-year-old has long maintained he was unaware that there were drugs in the suitcase, claiming he had been "groomed" and "duped" by online scammers, Australian broadcaster ABC News reported.

He told customs officials that the suitcase had been given to him in Shanghai, where he had gone to sign documents for a business deal involving someone named Rolland Edward.

Mr Edward - said to be a banker from Burkina Faso who had earlier agreed to invest US$7 million (S$9.9 million) in Mr Jayakody's company - had allegedly paid for the latter to travel to Perth to sign and collect other documents for the deal, as well as hand over the suitcase.

Mr Jayakody's first trial in September last year ended in a hung jury after a 12-member jury could not come to a unanimous decision, a requisite for conviction.

 

A retrial was ordered, with Mr Jayakody remanded pending the second trial.

According to ABC News, the Supreme Court jury deliberated for a couple of hours on Monday before delivering their verdict.

Prosecutors had argued that Mr Jayakody was "reckless, as to whether there was a substance in the suitcase, and as to whether it was a border-controlled substance".

During his first trial, Mr Jayakody's lawyer John Prior had told the jury that his client was a trustworthy man with a clean record.

Mr Jayakody, a law graduate, was seconded from the Ministry of Education to NTUC in 1972 and subsequently served as executive secretary of the Singapore Port Workers Union for 10 years.

He was also a member of the advisory council of the high-profile Skills Development Fund in 1979, alongside other union heavyweights such as disgraced former NTUC chairman Phey Yew Kok, who was sentenced to five years' jail last month for criminal breach of trust.