A 30-year-old Malaysian man was jailed for life yesterday 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.
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 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 the bundles under the armrest of the rear passenger seat.
The next day, he arrived at Woodlands Checkpoint around 10.40am. He was arrested after officers searched the car.
Defence lawyer Singa Retnam, in his closing submissions to the court last month, said that Saravanan had borrowed RM4,000 (S$1,270) from Aya as he did not have enough savings for his son's operation. He took the money to his son, who lives with his ex-wife in Perak, in October 2014.
When Saravanan returned to Johor Baru on Nov 5, 2014, he was asked by Aya to repay the money, but he could not do so immediately.
He had "no choice but to adhere to his boss's demands" and agreed to deliver 10 packets of "tembakau", which is a Malaysian slang term for tobacco, for RM2,000, according to the defence's submissions.
The defence said that Saravanan 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 inconsistencies in his account as he had initially said he was promised S$5,000 for the delivery, but later claimed he was promised RM2,000.
The prosecution noted that Saravanan was being paid a "disproportionately high" amount of S$5,000 for a "relatively simple task" of delivery.
This 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 him to have had knowledge of the nature of the drugs.
Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.