Heroin trafficker's consumption defence rejected, death sentence upheld

The Court of Appeal rejected Chong Hoon Cheong's consumption defence and upheld his death sentence imposed by the High Court last year. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A man facing a capital charge for trafficking 27 packets of heroin claimed in his defence that the drugs in the heaviest packet were for his personal consumption.

If Chong Hoon Cheong had succeeded in his consumption defence, he would have avoided the gallows, as the amount of heroin in the other packets was under the 15g legal threshold for the imposition of the mandatory death penalty.

On Tuesday (July 5), the Court of Appeal rejected Chong's consumption defence and upheld his death sentence imposed by the High Court last year.

Chong, who is now 61, was arrested on Dec 8, 2015, at his rented room in Hamilton Road in Jalan Besar.

He was charged with trafficking 27 packets of granular and powdery substances weighing a total of 848.69g, which were analysed and found to contain a total of 25.01g of pure heroin.

He claimed that a packet containing 448.7g of a brown granular substance - found to contain not less than 14.08g of pure heroin - was for his own consumption.

On Tuesday, the apex court noted that Chong's reported rate of heroin consumption "implausibly and dramatically increased" from the time of his arrest in 2015 to his trial in 2020.

In December 2015, Chong told Central Narcotics Bureau officers that he consumed about 4g of heroin each day.

A few weeks later, he told a doctor that he took 5g to 6g a day.

During his trial in 2020, Chong initially testified in March that he took 16g to 20g of heroin a day.

Towards the end of the trial, in November that year, he claimed that he consumed between 20g to 25g of heroin a day - approaching five to six times his original claim.

"There is no explanation for this rapidly inflating account of his rate of consumption, which inevitably means that it will be viewed with considerable doubt," said the Court of Appeal in its written judgment.

The apex court agreed with the lower court that while Chong is not expected to recall his consumption rates with scientific precision, what was concerning is that his alleged consumption rate increased fivefold over the course of the investigation and trial.

"That significant discrepancy was unaccounted for at the trial below, and remains unaccounted for before us," said the judgment written by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.

The apex court added that Chong's initial alleged rate of consumption of 4g per day could not possibly support his consumption defence.

The drugs in question amounted to more than 112 days' worth of supply, based on Chong's alleged rate of consumption.

The apex court said it was unbelievable that a person would possess such a large supply merely for his personal consumption.

The court added that Chong "could not have afforded the luxury of stockpiling such a large quantity" when it was clear, based on the evidence, that he was in considerable financial difficulties.

According to Chong, he agreed to work for a Malaysian known as "Ah Kiat", collecting heroin, repacking it and then waiting for "people to come and collect them" because he needed cash.

Chong said he was previously doing odd jobs and that the money he earned from drugs was just enough for his rental and daily needs.

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