Public Prosecutor v Parthiban Kanapathy

JudgeChan Seng Onn J
Judgment Date24 September 2019
Neutral Citation[2019] SGHC 226
Defendant CounselFor 14-15, 21-23 February 2017: Andrew Tan and Prakash Otharam (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Docket NumberCriminal Case No 16 of 2017
Hearing Date15 February 2017,21 February 2017,14 May 2019,05 August 2019,28 February 2019,14 February 2017,22 February 2017,26 February 2019,23 August 2019,23 February 2017
Subject MatterMisuse of Drugs Act,Accuracy of statements,Criminal Law,Ancillary hearings,Statements,Statutory offences,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Chain of custody,Error in translation
Published date27 September 2019
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Citation[2019] SGHC 226
Chan Seng Onn J: Introduction

Parthiban Kanapathy (“the accused”), is a 28 year-old Malaysian male. In the first tranche of hearings before me in February 2017, the accused, together with one Muneeshwar Subramaniam (“Muneeshwar”), faced capital charges relating to the importation of not less than 24.95g of diamorphine on 4 February 2012 at or about 2.29 pm, at Woodlands Checkpoint, Singapore.1

Prior to the second tranche of hearings in February 2019, the Prosecution applied for, and the court granted, a Discharge Not Amounting to an Acquittal for Muneeshwar.2

At the commencement of the second tranche of hearings in February 2019, the Prosecution unconditionally reduced the accused’s capital charge to a non-capital one involving the importation of not less than 14.99g of diamorphine (“the amended charge”), an offence under s 7 of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 2008 Rev Ed) (“MDA”), punishable under s 33(1) read with the Second Schedule of the MDA. The amended charge reads as follows:

… on 4th February 2012 at or about 2.29 p.m., at Woodlands Checkpoint, Singapore, on a Malaysia[n] registered motorcycle bearing registration no. WUQ4810, did import a controlled dug specified in Class A of the First Schedule to the Misuse of Drugs Act, Chapter 185, to wit, four (4) packets of granular/powdery substance weighing 916.6 grams which was analysed and found to contain not less than 14.99 grams of diamorphine, at the said place, without authorisation under the said Act or the Regulations made thereunder, and you have thereby committed an offence under section 7 of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 2008 Rev Ed) punishable under section 33(1) read with the Second Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 2008 Rev Ed).3

Apart from the reduction in the amount of diamorphine, the subject matter of the charge remained unchanged. A further fresh charge relating to the accused’s attempt to obstruct the course of justice was tendered,4 and stood down.5

The accused elected to claim trial to the amended charge. While the accused chose to remain silent at the close of the Prosecution’s case and after his defence was called,6 the central crux of his defence was that the four packets of drugs analysed by the Health and Sciences Authority (“HSA”) were not the same packets which he had been arrested with. In other words, the accused disputed the integrity of the chain of custody of the packets of drugs.

The accused’s statements

Before turning to the chain of custody, it is however appropriate to consider the three statements proffered by the accused, which admissibility and contents are significant for making out the elements of the amended charge against him. If the charge against the accused is not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the accused will not be convicted in any event, and it will no longer be necessary to consider questions relating to the chain of custody of the drug exhibits.

The 4 February 2012 statement

On 4 February 2012 at about 4.00pm, shortly after the accused had been detained at Woodlands Checkpoint for being found with four packets which were suspected to contain drugs, Staff Sergeant S V Thilakanand7 (“SSgt Thilakanand”) recorded a contemporaneous statement of the accused (“the 4 February 2012 statement”), in which the accused chose to speak in Tamil.8

In the 4 February 2012 statement, SSgt Thilakanand, who spoke to the accused in Tamil,9 recorded that the accused had identified the four packets as “[d]rugs”, and that the drugs belonged to one “Gandu”, who told him to place the four packets “at a grass patch near the Woodlands Mosque” for some person unknown to the accused to collect.10 The accused claimed that he would be paid RM200 for delivering the drugs, and that it was his second time making such a delivery.11

The 4 February 2012 statement, which was recorded in English, was then read over by SSgt Thilakanand to the accused in Tamil, and the accused was invited to make corrections, additions or deletions, if any, to the statement. The accused declined the offer.12

The cautioned statement

On 4 February 2012, at about 11.40pm, the accused was served with a charge of importing approximately 913.98g of granular substances, which were believed to contain diamorphine.13

On 5 February 2012, at about 12.12am, after the charge and the notice of warning pursuant to s 23 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 2012 Rev Ed) (“CPC”) were read in Tamil to the accused by his interpreter,14 Mr V I Ramanathan (“Mr Ramanathan”), the accused gave his statement in relation to the charge (“the cautioned statement”).

In the cautioned statement, the accused stated that he was formerly working in McDonald’s Singapore, and that he had lost his job in December 2011. Thereafter, he was influenced by his friends that he could “make great money by importing drugs into Singapore”, and he was thus tempted to do so. He was later “told by the giver that [he] was bringing in drugs but [the giver] did not specify what the drugs were.”15

The accused then pleaded for leniency, and the statement was then read back to him in Tamil by Mr Ramanathan. The accused once again declined to make any corrections, alterations or additions to the statement.16

The 5 February 2012 statement

After the cautioned statement was recorded, on 5 February 2012, at about 2.05pm, Inspector Ong Wee Kwang (“Insp Ong”) recorded a further statement from the accused (“the 5 February 2012 statement”), with Mr Ramanathan again serving as his Tamil interpreter since he elected to give his statement in the Tamil language.17

In the 5 February 2012 statement, the accused gave further details of his delivery for Gandu, as alluded to in his 4 February 2012 statement.

In December 2011, after the accused had lost his job with McDonald’s Singapore, he met Gandu, whom he had previously befriended at a Deepavali function, at a food stall in Johor, Malaysia. The accused asked Gandu if he could help him find a job.18

Around the third week of January 2012, Gandu called the accused and told him “to deliver Milo into Singapore and throw it near a mosque at Woodlands”. For the job, the accused would be paid RM200.19 While the accused wondered why Gandu could not do the delivery himself as “Woodlands is so close by from Johor”, he did not ask any questions given the remuneration offered.20

The accused then met Gandu at Pelangi, Johor, and Gandu passed the accused four small packets wrapped with newspapers and cellophane tape. Gandu informed the accused that the “four packets [were] drugs but in Singapore it is known as ‘Milo’”. The accused then hid the four packets in the air filter box of his motorcycle.21

Subsequently, the accused rode his motorcycle into Singapore through the Woodlands Checkpoint to the mosque which he had been directed to. He then found a secluded bus stop. There, he “quickly took out the drugs that were hidden in the air filter box”, put the four packets into a plastic bag, tied up the plastic bag, and then threw it on the grass near the mosque. After returning to Johor, the accused called Gandu, who met him and gave him RM200 for the job done.22

On 4 February 2012, being the day of his arrest, the accused again received a call from Gandu at about 11am. Gandu told him that there were similar items which had to be delivered to Singapore, and that the accused would again be paid RM200 to make the delivery “just like what [he] did the last time”.23 The accused subsequently met Gandu in an old unoccupied house in Pelangi, Johor. Inside the house, Gandu handed four packets to the accused.24

The accused then hid the four packets in the air filter box of his motorcycle, as he had done in the previous delivery for Gandu.25 At about 2.15pm, the accused entered the Woodlands Checkpoint on his motorcycle. After the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (“ICA”) officer checked his passport, she asked him to park his motorcycle on one side, and he “became tensed and upset but [he] did not show it”. The officer also asked for his motorcycle key, and he passed it to her.26

While nothing incriminating was initially found on his motorcycle,27 the fender to his motorcycle was eventually opened, revealing the four packets which were hidden in the air filter compartment of the motorcycle. All this was done in the accused’s presence. One officer then asked the accused if the four packets were drugs, to which he responded “[y]es that’s drugs but I do not know what kind of drugs they are” in English.28

After that, one officer took a statement from the accused in Tamil.29 Later, after Insp Ong arrived, the four packets were opened in the accused’s presence, and photographs of the packets were taken. The accused was then shown the drug exhibits which were inside the four packets, and he again stated that while he knew they were drugs, he did not know what type of drugs they were.30

Finally, the accused stated that he was sorry and remorseful, and that he wished to be sent back to Malaysia as early as possible.31 The entire 5 February 2012 statement was then read back to the accused in Tamil, and he once again declined to make any further changes or deletions.32

Marked consistency in the statements

Reading the 4 February 2012 statement, the cautioned statement, and the 5 February 2012 statement collectively (“the three statements”), the accused clearly admitted to having previously delivered packets of drugs for Gandu. On the fateful day of his arrest, the accused again attempted to repeat his modus operandi of delivering the drugs for Gandu by hiding the four packets in the air filter box of his motorcycle. However, he could not complete his delivery as he had been stopped while crossing the Woodlands Checkpoint. Notably, the accused consistently stated that while he knew that the packets which he was delivering were drugs, he did not know what type of drugs they were.

The accused’s...

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1 books & journal articles
  • Criminal Procedure, Evidence and Sentencing
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2019, December 2019
    • 1 December 2019
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