SINGAPORE - A 30-year-old Malaysian man was jailed for life on Tuesday (Aug 22) for smuggling at least 4.67kg of drugs into Singapore via Woodlands Checkpoint.
Saravanan Chandaram, who was convicted of two charges of importing controlled drugs, also received the maximum 24 strokes of the cane.
The prosecution submitted a certificate to the court stating that Saravanan was only a drug courier and had substantively helped the authorities to disrupt drug trafficking.
This gave the judge the discretion to impose a life sentence instead of the mandatory death penalty, under a 2012 change to the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Saravanan was found with 10 bundles containing at least 1.38kg of cannabis and at least 3.29kg of cannabinol and cannabinol derivative.
On Nov 5, 2014, he rented a Malaysia-registered car and met a drug syndicate leader, known only as Aya, in Skudai, Johor, where he collected the 10 bundles of drugs. The identity of Aya is not known.
Saravanan, who worked for Aya as his bodyguard and personal driver, hid six bundles in a compartment under the left rear passenger seat arm rest and four bundles under the right rear passenger seat arm rest.
The next day, he drove the car into Singapore, arriving at Woodlands Checkpoint around 10.40am. He was arrested after officers searched the car and found the 10 bundles.
Defence lawyer Singa Retnam, in his closing submissions to the court in July, said that Saravanan had borrowed RM4,000 (S$1,272) from Aya as he did not have enough savings for his son's operation.
Some time in October 2014, during the Deepavali period, he brought the money to Perak, where his son lives with his ex-wife, and paid for the cost of his son's operation.
When he returned to Johor Baru on Nov 5 2014, Saravanan was asked by Aya to repay the money.
As he could not do so immediately, he had "no choice but to adhere to his boss' wish and demands" and agreed to deliver 10 packets of "tembakau", which is a Malaysian slang for tobacco for, RM 2,000, according to the defence's submissions.
Saravanan had told Aya that he did not want to deliver drugs as he was aware of the capital punishment for drug trafficking in Singapore.
The defence submitted that Saravanan had a high degree of trust of Aya and believed he was delivering 10 packets of tobacco, instead of cannabis.
However, the prosecution said that Saravanan's belief was "unfounded" when "there were clearly suspicious circumstances surrounding the delivery of the drugs".
There were also glaring inconsistencies in his account as he had initially said in his statement that he was promised $5,000 for the delivery of the 10 bundles. He had claimed, only later, that he was promised RM2,000.
The prosecution noted that among other factors, Saravanan was being paid a "disproportionately high" amount of $5,000, which was about 1.6 times the selling price of tobacco in 2014, for a "relatively simple task of delivering 10 bundles from Malaysia to Singapore".
This is should have alerted him to the possibility that he was carrying drugs and prompted him to do checks, the prosecution added.
Judicial Commissioner Aedit Abdullah, in agreeing with the prosecution, found that Saravanan had knowledge of the nature of the drugs.
Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.