South African gets 20 years' jail, 15 strokes for trafficking meth

SINGAPORE - A jobless South African man who arrived at Changi airport in October 2012 with methamphetamine, commonly known as Ice, stashed inside the lining of his suitcase was on Tuesday jailed 20 years and ordered to be caned 15 strokes.

The High Court heard that Hermanus Nicolaas Pienaar, 40, was promised 20,000 South African rand ($2,400) by a Nigerian man he met in Johannesburg if he travelled to Singapore to collect a suitcase of money from someone here.

Just before Pienaar's flight to Singapore, another Nigerian man handed him a suitcase and packed some clothing and toiletries into it. Pienaar strongly suspected that there were drugs in the suitcase but did not conduct any checks before he boarded the plane.

At Changi airport, Central Narcotics Bureau officers noticed him behaving suspiciously as he was exiting the arrival hall. Scans of his suitcase revealed items hidden within the inner lining. Two black plastic bags containing 1.9kg of Ice were found after the lining was pulled open during a physical check of the suitcase.

Pienaar initially faced a capital drug trafficking charge as the quantity of drugs crossed the 250g death penalty threshold for Ice. However, the prosecution later reduced the charge to one of trafficking in not less than 249.99g of Ice - which carries a minimum 20-year jail term and 15 strokes of the cane.

Pienaar's lawyer Low Cheong Yeow urged the High Court to impose the minimum sentence, arguing that his client was "wilfully blind" for not checking but it was not an overt act of trafficking.