Man acquitted of taking heroin after he raised 'reasonable doubt' about CNB officer

Lemmont Tan Beehunt tested positive for opiates but he insisted he was innocent. He argued that the substance in his urine could have come from some Chinese medicine he bought from a street peddler.
Lemmont Tan Beehunt tested positive for opiates but he insisted he was innocent. He argued that the substance in his urine could have come from some Chinese medicine he bought from a street peddler. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A 56-year-old man with a long history of drug abuse on Friday (March 24) succeeded in getting himself acquitted of his latest charge for which he was sentenced to 7½ years' jail, after he raised doubts about the credibility of a narcotics officer.

Lemmont Tan Beehunt tested positive for opiates but he insisted he was innocent. He argued that the substance - a unique metabolite of heroin - in his urine could have come from some Chinese medicine he bought from a street peddler.

Tan contended that he had given the medicine to the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) investigation officer but nothing was done to send the pills for analysis.

In November last year, a district judge disbelieved Tan's testimony regarding the alleged contaminated medicine. Tan was sentenced to 7½ years' jail under the sentencing regime for hardcore addicts. He was not caned due to his age.

Tan appealed to the High Court against his conviction and sentence.

Arguing his own case, Tan insisted he had handed the medicine to the CNB. He challenged the authorities to view the footage from CCTV cameras when he went to the CNB on March 30 last year (2016).

"A picture paints a thousand words," Tan argued, saying he was carrying a "big bag" containing prescription medicine and a $90 bottle of black pills he bought from a man hawking Chinese medicine at a coffee shop.

Tan pointed to the date printed on the label of one of his prescription medicine, which was produced as a court exhibit, to support his contention.

CNB officers had first arrested Tan at his home on Jan 13, 2016 after he missed his urine test. The officers also recovered some medication from him home that day.

Tan argued that the date on the label showed Jan 18, 2016, proving that the medicine must have been taken from him after CNB officers first searched his home on Jan 13.

After hearing Tan's arguments, Justice Chan Seng Onn asked why he bought the pills. Tan said he wanted to try whatever medicine he could get as he was in pain from an arm operation.

Justice Chan said Tan has "raised serious credibility issues" with regard to the seizure of the medicine. Tan has created a reasonable doubt, he said, about the "suppression" of some Chinese medicine which may contain traces of prohibited drugs.