Man who escaped gallows in 1994 for killing CNB officer to hang for heroin trafficking

SINGAPORE - A 61-year-old man who escaped the gallows more than two decades ago for killing a Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officer has been sentenced to death for heroin trafficking.

In a written judgment released on Monday (Nov 2), Justice Valerie Thean rejected Roshdi Abdullah Altway's story that he was merely safekeeping the drugs and that the $18,000 found on him was meant for a delivery of anchovies.

In 1994, Roshdi, who was 35 at the time, had his murder conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal and was sentenced to 10 years' jail for culpable homicide instead.

Then, the apex court found that Roshdi, who was a CNB informer, had hit Inspector Rajab Mohamed, 35, with a granite mortar in self-defence as he thought that the officer was going for his revolver.

His 10-year sentence was ordered to run consecutively with a six-year term for unlawful possession of a revolver and six bullets.

In 2007, Roshdi was sentenced to 12 years' jail and 10 strokes of the cane for trafficking Subutex tablets and for drug consumption.

In September 2016, he was arrested at the void deck of a block of flats in Compassvale Lane with $18,000 in cash.

Packets of drugs, later analysed to contain 78.77g of heroin, were found in his rented room in the block.

The prosecution relied primarily on Roshdi's statements, arguing that there was sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was in possession of the drugs for the purposes of trafficking.

In his statements, Roshdi admitted that the drugs in his room were for sale and that he had repacked and delivered drugs on multiple occasions.

But during his trial, Roshdi backtracked on what he had said.

He contended that he was only safekeeping the prepacked drugs for a person named Aru and had intended to return them all along.

He claimed that the $18,000 he had on him was for a delivery of anchovies.

Roshdi challenged the admissibility of his statements, claiming that he had been induced to make them by CNB officers who told him that there was a "new law" and that he would not be hanged if the drugs did not belong to him.

Justice Thean rejected this, saying there was no reason for Roshdi to trust the officers over the alleged utterances.

Moreover, by his own account, Roshdi was suspicious of CNB officers, stemming from his previously served jail terms for homicide and drug trafficking.

"In light of Roshdi's history and personal circumstances, the expectation was that Roshdi would be sceptical and wary, not trusting and unquestioning," said the judge.

Justice Thean added that Roshdi was explicitly told about the possibility of a death sentence.

The judge said the items found in Roshdi's room, which included three weighing scales stained with heroin, supported the narrative of the statements rather than the version he gave at trial.

She added that Roshdi was unable to give a "lucid reason" for the cash, noting that $18,000 would have yielded 3,000kg of anchovies, based on his professed price of $6 per kg.

This explanation for the cash was also inconsistent with the one he gave in his statements, where he claimed that the money was for a delivery of contraband cigarettes.

"Roshdi's professed willingness to lie, coupled with his illogical responses on the stand, went to issues of general credibility and were consistent with my finding that the statements, rather than his version on the stand, were reliable," said Justice Thean.

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