Two drug traffickers spared gallows as court amends and convicts them on lesser charge

The Supreme Court at 1 Supreme Court Lane.
The Supreme Court at 1 Supreme Court Lane.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Two Singaporean traffickers were spared capital drug charges after the High Court was not convinced they knew they had two pounds of a granular substance which contained 21.58 g of diamorphine, or pure heroin, instead of one pound of the substance as they claimed.

Justice Choo Han Teck on Wednesday (May 3) amended the charge and convicted them of jointly trafficking in 10.17 g of diamorphine instead, based on the evidence from the six-day hearing held in February (2017).

Ng Peng Chong, 58, a pimp, and Cheng Pueh Kuang, 59, a former cab-driver, were arrested by officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau as they were parking their car at Lorong 33 Geylang on May 16, 2014. They were coming back from Woodlands, where they had collected the heroin from a supplier. They surrendered to the officers and admitted they had heroin in the car when asked.

A search of the car yielded a black bundle which was found to contain two packets of a brown granular substance weighing about two pounds (902.8g) in total. The substance was analysed to contain 21.58 g of pure heroin.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Isaac Tan alleged both men had jointly ordered and collected the items for the purpose of trafficking.

The accused did not dispute the fact that they had ordered and received the heroin from their supplier earlier that day. But defending lawyers, Mr Cheong Aik Chye appearing for Ng, and Mr Peter Cuthbert Low for Cheng, argued the duo had ordered only one pound of the substance. Although they were found with two, they thought they had only one and had not intended to be in possession of two pounds of heroin.

As evidence, they pointed to the text messages between the accused and the supplier, which suggested they had ordered only a pound of heroin. In addition, their past modus operandi showed they used to order no more than a pound or half a pound at any time.

The lawyers also argued that the men intended to consume about 6 grams of the drug themselves.

In judgment grounds issued on Wednesday, Justice Choo found their evidence was consistent and credible throughout and it was "likely" they ordered one pound to be delivered on 16 May 2014.

"Despite the lack of clarity about when the heroin was ordered, they have consistently maintained that they had only ordered one pound of heroin, from the point of their arrest to the recording of their long statements, and to their oral testimonies at trial," said Justice Choo.

"Their version of events is corroborated by their text message history, which reflects a general pattern of ordering only one or half a pound of heroin," he added.

The judge noted, among other things, the prosecution had not contested their evidence that their orders for heroin were reflected accurately in the text messages.

Justice Choo said it would be "artificial and harsh" to find that they had become aware of the additional pound of heroin during the drive from Woodlands where they had collected the drug to their home in Geylang.

He amended the charge from joint trafficking of 21.58 g of diamorphine analysed from the two pounds of heroin in its gross form in the two packets, to joint trafficking of 10.17 g of diamorphine contained in one of the two packets, which averted the capital charges.

Both were found guilty and convicted of the lesser charge and are due to appear in court again later this month for sentencing.