Lim Beng Soon v Public Prosecutor

CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date18 September 2000
Neutral Citation[2000] SGCA 52
Citation[2000] SGCA 52
Defendant CounselJaswant Singh (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
Plaintiff CounselPeter Fernando (Leo Fernando) and Yeo Chee Teck (Ang Jeffrey & Partners) (assigned)
Published date19 September 2003
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 1 of 2000
Date18 September 2000
Subject MatterPossession for purpose of trafficking,Accused possessing drugs in bag but claiming not to know bags contained drugs,Whether possession must be proven before presumption of trafficking can be relied on,Criminal Law,Whether he has mens rea that bags contain drugs,Statutory offences,ss 5(1)(a) & 17 Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 1998 Rev Ed),Drug trafficking,Misuse of Drugs Act

(delivering the grounds of judgment of the court): The appellant, Lim Beng Soon, and one Henry Tan Kok Hwa (`Tan`) were jointly tried before the High Court on charges under the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 1998 Ed) (`the Act`) The appellant was charged with trafficking in 32 slabs of substance containing 49,168 g of opium containing not less than 990.05 g of morphine by having the same in his possession for the purpose of trafficking, an offence under s 5(1)(a) read with s 5(2) and punishable under s 33 of the Act. Tan was charged with abetting the appellant in a conspiracy with the appellant and others, sometime in April 1999, to traffic in that quantity of opium by arranging for such quantity of opium to be delivered to the appellant in order that the appellant be put in possession thereof for the purpose of trafficking, an offence under s 5(1)(a) read with s 12 and punishable under s 33 of the Act. At the conclusion of the trial, Tan was acquitted of the charge, but the appellant was convicted and was sentenced to suffer death. Against his conviction, he appealed. We dismissed the appeal and now give our reasons.

The prosecution case

Early in the morning, on 11 April 1999, a team of officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau (`CNB`) were keeping a surveillance on the flat, [num ]03-111 at Block 31, Dover Road. At about 6.30am, the appellant drove into the car park next to the block and parked his car there. He walked up the block and, a little while later, came down again. He returned to the car, arranged something in the trunk of his car and then drove off. He was trailed by the officers. At about 6.50am, he arrived at Jalan Kukoh and there he stopped his car to allow one Ang Boon Seng (`Ang`) to get into the front passenger seat. However, before the appellant could drive off, the officers moved in and placed both the appellant and Ang under arrest.

Upon the arrest, 32 slabs of substance were recovered from the car.
The 32 slabs were placed in two black and purple travel bags (with eight slabs in each bag), two red plastic bags, one blue travel bag and one white jute bag. One of the black and purple travel bags (containing eight slabs) was in the rear seat of the car, while the rest of the bags were in the boot of the car. An analysis of the 32 slabs of substance was subsequently carried out by the Department of Scientific Services, and it was found that the 32 slabs contained 49,168 g of opium containing not less than 990.05 g of morphine.

Evidence of Ang

Ang was an opium addict, and initially he was jointly charged with the appellant for trafficking in the 32 slabs of opium. However, he had since been given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal, upon application of the prosecution. He was called as a witness for the prosecution and his evidence so far as concerned the appellant was as follows. He testified that on the night before the arrest, he spoke to Tan over the telephone and Tan agreed to sell him one `liap` of opium and told him that someone would deliver the opium on the following morning. On the following morning, his pager beeped, and he called that number and spoke to the person and discussed how to take delivery of the `thing` on that morning. He then went downstairs. When he reached the roadside of Jalan Kukoh he saw a blue car coming, and the car stopped at the roadside. He opened the front passenger door and asked the driver whether he was delivering the goods. The driver was the appellant who answered in the affirmative, but before he could say anything they were both arrested.

Evidence of the appellant

The appellant made several statements to the police and all of them were admitted in evidence as having been made voluntarily without any threat, inducement or promise from any of the recording personnel. In his first statement, the appellant said that he was asked by one Ah Seow (also referred to as Ah Shiao) to deliver the `things`, which were seized from his car, and he did not know what those things were, and for delivering them he was to be paid $500. His second statement made reference to a piece of paper, exh P-158, seized from him upon his arrest, which contained particulars as to delivery of the goods. He confirmed that the piece of paper was given to him by Ah Seow. His third statement related to identification of Tan. He disclaimed any knowledge of Tan or one Lim Chew Hing (`Lim`). Lim was arrested together with Tan and both of them were jointly charged for abetting the appellant in a conspiracy to traffic in opium, but later on application of the prosecution Lim was granted a discharge not amounting to acquittal. The appellant also said that neither Tan nor Lim was Ah Seow.

Next, in his cautioned statement recorded pursuant to s 122(6) of the Criminal Procedure Code, he said that someone asked him to make delivery of the things in his car and that he did not know that they were opium.
He never smoked opium before, and that was the reason why he did not know that the things were opium.

He gave further three statements, which were recorded over three days.
In these statements, he claimed to be an innocent courier engaged to effect delivery of the goods and that he did not know that the goods he was asked to deliver were opium. The material parts of his statements relating to the delivery made on the morning of his arrest were briefly these. On 11 April 1999, which was the day when he was arrested, Ah Seow called him at about 6am and asked him to get ready to deliver the goods. He got himself ready and went down to his car and waited. Ah Seow then telephoned him on his handphone and asked him to go to `the first person written on the piece of paper`, whose address was Block 30 Dover Road. He drove to Dover Road and when he was about to reach there, Ah Seow called him again and gave him the telephone number of the person and asked him to identify himself using the code `6`, as written on the piece of paper and to deliver to that person `the torn bag and a red plastic bag beside it`. Thereafter, he immediately called that number and a woman answered in Hokkien and he identified himself using `code 6`. He was asked to go to the third storey and place the goods at the staircase. When he reached Block 30 Dover Road, he parked the car, went to the boot and took out the torn bag and the red plastic bag beside it. He then walked up the staircase to the third story and placed the torn bag and the plastic bag on the staircase landing. He saw a woman coming out from the flat, but he just walked down the staircase without talking to the woman. That was the first delivery he made that morning.

After that delivery, Ah Seow called him on his handphone again.
Ah Seow asked him to get a dark coloured bag from the right side of the boot and place it at the rear seat of his car and to drive to Block 8 Jalan Kukoh and gave him a pager number. Ah Seow also said that he was to call that number and to key in the code 8 or 888 to identify himself, and that an old man would come to meet him. When he was about to reach Jalan Kukoh, he telephoned the number and keyed in the code 888. Upon reaching Jalan Kukoh, he saw one old man standing at the pavement and he stopped the car for the old man to get in. The old man opened the door and asked if he was Ah Seow`s man and whether he was the one who paged him. He answered in the affirmative and the old man got into his car. Just at that moment, he and the old man were arrested.

The defence

The appellant gave evidence in his defence. The thrust of his defence was that he did not know that the several bags seized from his car contained opium. He was merely an innocent courier acting on the instructions of Ah Seow. His evidence so far as relevant was briefly as follows.

Before his arrest the appellant was in the general contracting business, and this included house redecoration as well as removal and delivery of goods.
Sometime around Chinese New Year 1999, he was engaged to do some renovation work off Holland Road, Singapore. It was during that period that he met Ah Seow for the very first time. The appellant was having lunch at a hawker centre in the Holland Road area, when Ah Seow came along and occupied a seat at his table. A casual conversation ensued, wherein the appellant spoke about the nature of his work. When the appellant mentioned that he did delivery work, Ah Seow expressed an interest and asked him what his delivery charges were. Subsequently, Ah Seow took the appellant`s name card and went on his way, telling the appellant that he would contact the appellant should he require the appellant`s services.

Sometime at the end of March or beginning of April 1999, Ah Seow telephoned the appellant and expressed his intention to engage his services to deliver some goods.
As the job involved delivery to five or six persons, the appellant told Ah Seow that the charge would be $500. Ah Seow then said that he would revert to the appellant, if he wanted the latter`s services.

His evidence as to how he came to deliver the goods for Ah Seow on 11 April 1999 was substantially consistent with his statements as recorded by the police.
As his evidence was material in our consideration of the appeal it is necessary to recount it here, though they were in several respects a repetition of what he said in his statements. On the night before the arrest (ie 10 April 1999), at about 9pm, the appellant was at the Woodlands Shopping Centre, when Ah Seow telephoned him on his handphone. Ah Seow asked him whether he could deliver some goods for him (Ah Seow). When he enquired what the goods were, Ah Seow merely replied that they were `dry goods`. The appellant agreed to deliver the goods the next morning. A little while later, at about 9.30pm, the appellant drove to 12 milestone Woodlands Road to collect the goods from Ah Seow. There, the appellant met up with Ah Seow, and Ah Seow proceeded to load the goods into the trunk of the...

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1 books & journal articles
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    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2000, December 2000
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