M’sian sentenced to death in S’pore for drug trafficking acquitted after appeal with new evidence – Mothership.SG

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A 37-year-old Malaysian, Punithan Genasan, convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death in 2020, was acquitted by the appeals court.

The court issued its decision after considering an appeal with new evidence.

Judgment and acquittal

The court, comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Justice Andrew Phang and Justice Tay Yong Kwang, delivered judgment on Monday, November 1. It can be read here.

They decided to acquit Punithan because there was reasonable doubt as to whether a supposed meeting between Punithan and two other drug couriers had taken place.

Punithan originally convicted and sentenced to death

In May 2020, Punithan, a debt collector, was convicted of being an accomplice to trafficking at least 28.5g of heroin, Straits Time (ST) reported.

He reportedly introduced two other drug couriers, Mohd Sueif Ismail and V Shanmugam Veloo on October 12, 2011 to facilitate a drug deal.

This encounter allegedly took place in the parking lot of a West Coast McDonald’s restaurant.

Punithan was also accused of asking one of them to travel to S’pore to meet the other two weeks later.

He left Singapore on October 12, 2011 and was later extradited to Singapore in 2016.

At the trial

Punithan’s trial, which began in January 2018, saw him charged with separately recruiting Shanmugam and Sueif, and presenting them in a McDonald’s car park in West Coast Park on October 12, 2011.

According STShanmugam was offered money to travel to Singapore, while Sueif was to help him receive and deliver heroin shipments from Malaysia.

Shanmugam and Sueif were arrested while delivering heroin on October 28, 2011, shortly after Shanmugam drove to Singapore in a car containing 10 packs of heroin and picked up Suief from a bus stop at Haw Par Villa.

Punithan was also accused of taking possession of the car for a few hours on October 27, 2011 and was implicated as the “mastermind” behind the transaction by Shanmugam.

Alibi defense dismissed by judge

However, Punithan denied any connection to Sueif and Shanmugam. They had testified that Punithan had recruited them to transport drugs, put them in touch and arranged the transaction.

But Punithan disputed this and called a friend, Gobi Krishna Karuppiah, and his wife as witnesses to back up his claim that he never met the couriers and that it was impossible for him to have placed the drugs in the car. .

He said he had not met the others on October 12. He was focused on collecting a debt and was accompanied by Gobi Krishna, ST reported.

Punithan also said he could not have passed the car to Shanmugam in Johor on October 27 as he was in Kedah celebrating Deepavali with his family.

Judge’s remarks

However, while High Court Judge Chan Seng Onn admitted that Punithan was in Singapore on October 12 to collect a debt, he had “enough time” to meet the drug couriers, based on immigration records .

He also said testimony from Punithan’s wife that he was in Kedah on October 27 should be “treated with caution” as she was an interested witness.

“The judge could not rule out that Mr. Gobi would lie to protect Punithan. He noted that the witness could ‘amazingly’ remember the events of eight years ago in great detail, but his ‘superhuman memory’ failed him when asked further questions”, ST reported.

Purpose of the Court of Appeal

In the 2022 decision, the Court of Appeal said the “central issue” of the appeal was whether the alleged introductory meeting between the three men took place on October 12, 2011.

Indeed, this alleged meeting is the connection between Punithan and the drug deal that took place in Singapore on October 28, 2011.

Therefore, the Prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged meeting took place, in order to prove the common intent of Punithan and the couriers to traffic in drugs.

Discrepancies in evidence

The court said: “There were discrepancies in the evidence as to the date and time of the alleged introductory meeting during the 2014 trial and the 2018 trial.”

According to Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) records, in October 2011, Shanmugam visited Singapore several times. Punithan was in Singapore twice, on October 11 and 12.

The only day Shanmugam and Punithan were in Singapore was October 12.

Shanmugam and Sueif both claimed during the trials that their meeting with Punithan would have taken place in the afternoon or evening.

The meeting could not have taken place in the afternoon or evening, as the drug couriers claim

However, according to ICA records from October 12, Shanmugam was in Singapore from 7:24 a.m. to 9:36 a.m. (about two hours), having entered and exited later through the Woodlands Checkpoint.

Meanwhile, Punithan was in Singapore on October 12 from 7:04 a.m. to 12:19 p.m. (about five hours).

Therefore, a meeting between the two could only take place in the morning, and not in the afternoon or evening as the smugglers claim.

The court said:

“As things stand, we don’t even know after the remand hearing why the Couriers said in their 2011 investigative statements that the alleged introductory meeting took place in the afternoon or on the evening when it was clear from the ICA travel movement records that the only time the meeting could have taken place was in the early morning hours of October 12, 2011.

Accordingly, there remained a lingering reasonable doubt as to the time of the alleged introductory meeting and therefore a reasonable doubt as to whether the Couriers were actually testifying about the October 12, 2011 meeting.”

The decision does not affect Suief and Shanmugam’s other convictions.

The court stressed that their acquittal of Punithan does not affect the sentences of Suief and Shanmugam, who were found in possession of drugs and distributing them.

They were convicted in 2015. Shanmugam, then 30, was sentenced to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane. Suief, then 46, was sentenced to death.

Punithan was represented by a team of attorneys from K&L Gates Straits Law, led by lead attorney Narayanan Sreenivasan.

His lawyers produced new evidence to support his case, including taped investigative statements from Suief and Shanmugam in 2011, the Singtel call tracking report for Suief’s cellphone, and travel records from Suief. ‘ICA for Shanmugam, his foster mother, foster daughter and brother.

Top image via Wikimedia Commons.

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