Public Prosecutor v Yeo Choon Poh

JudgeChao Hick Tin J
Judgment Date19 October 1993
Neutral Citation[1993] SGCA 76
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 46 of 1993
Date19 October 1993
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselBala Reddy (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
Citation[1993] SGCA 76
Defendant CounselPeter Cuthbert Low (Peter Low Seong Tang & Pnrs)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Subject MatterComplicity,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Guidelines to be applied by appellate court,Witnesses' demeanour,Essence of conspiracy,Appeal on fact,Determining his veracity,Impeaching witnesses’ credibility,Procedure,Lies Accused's lies as corroboration of his guilt,Evidence of conspiracy,Test against his whole evidence,Corroboration,Criminal conspiracy,Appeal,Criminal Law,Witnesses,No requirement that alleged conspirators remain in each other's company,Evidence

This was an appeal by the public prosecutor against the respondent`s acquittal on a charge of abetment by conspiracy of trafficking in diamorphine (heroin). The respondent was jointly charged in the High Court with Tee Seh Ping (`Tee`) and Yeo Choon Chau (`Yeo`) under the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185) (`the Act`) for engaging with one another and one Lai Kam Loy (`Lai`) to abet Lai in trafficking not less than 197.03 g of diamorphine. The charge against the respondent, Tee and Yeo read as follows (respondent`s name highlighted):

That you, Tee Seh Ping, Yeo Choon Poh, Yeo Choon Chau, are charged that you, on or about 13 May 1991 in Singapore, did engage with one another and one Lai Kam Loy in a conspiracy to do a certain thing, namely, to traffic in diamorphine, a controlled drug specified in Class A of the First Schedule to the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185) and in pursuance of that conspiracy and in order to the doing of that thing, an act took place at or about 12.40pm at the carpark of Block 109 Aljunied Crescent, where Lai Kam Loy delivered to one James Ooi Hock Aun about five pounds of heroin containing not less than 197.03g of diamorphine, which was kept in car JBU 365 belonging to Yeo Choon Poh, and you have thereby abetted the offence of trafficking in the said controlled drug and committed an offence under s 5(a) read with s 12 of the Misuse of Drugs Act punishable under s 33 of the said Act.

The particulars preferred by the public prosecutor in support of the charge were as follows:


(a) Lai Kam Loy, Tee Seh Ping, Yeo Choon Poh and Yeo Choon Chau came into Singapore from Johor on the morning of 13 May 1991;

(b) A meeting was held on 13 May 1991 between 11.45pm and 12.15pm at Luna Coffee House in Apollo Hotel, Havelock Road, Singapore, where Lai Kam Loy in the presence of and with the knowledge of Tee Seh Ping and Yeo Choon Chau agreed to sell to one James Ooi Hock Aun about 5 pounds of heroin which was kept in the car belonging to Yeo Choon Poh ;

(c) ... [not relevant to the respondent]

(d) At about 12.30pm outside an eating house in Geylang, Singapore, Yeo Choon Poh handed the key to his car JBU 365 to Lai Kam Loy in order to allow Lai Kam Loy to deliver the drugs kept in his car JBU 365.

At the end of the trial, the trial judge acquitted the respondent of the charge.
The public prosecutor appealed against the respondent`s acquittal and at the end of the appeal, we allowed the appeal, convicted the respondent of the charge and sentenced the respondent to death. We now state our reasons for so doing.

The facts

On 13 May 1991 Sgt James Ooi Hock Aun (`Sgt James`) of the Central Narcotics Bureau (`CNB`) received information that a drug syndicate had five pounds of diamorphine for sale. Together with his assistant Cpl Ben Ey (`Cpl Ey`), they decided to pose as potential buyers to meet representatives of the syndicate, who would be accompanied by a CNB informer known as `Ah Hai`, at the Luna Coffee House in Apollo Hotel.

The respondent, Yeo, Tee and Lai had come into Singapore that morning from Johor.
The respondent was driving his Proton Saga JBU 365 with Yeo his younger brother in the front passenger seat. Lai came in alone driving his red Mazda and Tee came in a blue Honda Accord driven by Ah Hai.

Sgt James and Cpl Ey duly met up with Yeo, Tee, Lai and Ah Hai at the Luna Coffee House.
Discussions followed regarding the sale of five pounds of heroin. Lai informed Sgt James that the drugs were not at the coffee house but were somewhere in Geylang, that the key to where the drugs were kept was held by someone in Geylang, and that Sgt James was to follow him to take delivery of them. He also asked if they had brought the money to pay for the drugs whereupon in response Cpl Ey took out a stack of flash notes (genuine notes on the outside with photocopied notes in between). The deal concluded, Lai told Sgt James that he was unsure of the way to Geylang whereupon Tee volunteered to lead the way.

Lai, Tee and Sgt James then left in two cars, with Lai driving his red Mazda accompanied by Tee in the passenger seat and Sgt James driving his Honda Prelude.
Yeo remained behind with `Ah Hai` and Cpl Ey to collect payment once the drugs were delivered. At all times, both the group that remained behind and the group that left had their movements closely monitored by two teams of CNB officers.

The unchallenged evidence of the CNB officers who trailed the two vehicles was that at Guillemard Circus (near Lorong 22, Geylang) Lai`s red Mazda overtook Sgt James`s car and led him to Lorong 22.
On arriving at Lorong 22, the respondent was waiting at a coffee house. Lai got out of his car and went up to the respondent who handed him the key to his car JBU 365 which was not there, but was parked in a car park at Aljunied. The two cars then went off leaving the respondent behind. Lai`s car led Sgt James`s car to the carpark of Block 109 Aljunied and, on arrival, Lai parked his car alongside the respondent`s Proton Saga JBU 365. He used the respondent`s car key to open the car boot. Inside were two plastic bags. Sgt James took possession of the plastic bags from Lai and both cars headed back towards Apollo Hotel. The contents of the two plastic bags were later seized and scientifically analysed and found to contain not less than 197.03g of diamorphine. When Lai, Tee and Sgt James returned to Apollo Hotel, Lai and Tee were arrested by CNB officers.

In the meantime at the Luna Coffee House, Cpl Ey had been discussing details of how to sell drugs and future drug deals with Yeo.
Yeo gave him his pager number for the purpose of the future transactions. Upon Cpl Ey being informed of the arrest of Lai and Tee, he relayed this information to Yeo. Then, on the pretext of calling Sgt James, he separated himself from Ah Hai and Yeo, and returned to CNB headquarters. After Cpl Ey left, Ah Hai drove Yeo in his blue Honda Accord to Lorong 22 to pick up the respondent. From there, they went to the Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant in Woodlands where they were arrested by CNB officers.

The respondent`s statement

After his arrest, the respondent gave a long statement on 27 May 1991 which was recorded by Insp Sivakumaran and interpreted to the respondent by Wu Nan Yong. It was not challenged by the respondent`s counsel and was admitted as evidence at his trial. In it the respondent related the following events.

(1) The respondent entered Singapore with Yeo at about 10am on 13 May 1991. After crossing the Causeway they stopped by the side of the road. Meanwhile, two cars had parked on the other side of the road. One was a red Mazda, the other a blue Honda Accord. There were two persons in the red Mazda and three or four persons in the Honda Accord. Yeo crossed the road to speak to both drivers. On returning, he instructed the respondent to follow the two cars.

(2) The convoy of three cars then travelled along the Bukit Timah Expressway in the order of the red Mazda, the blue Honda Accord and the respondent`s Proton Saga. As the vehicles approached the exit leading to the Pan Island Expressway in the direction of the Changi Airport, Yeo told the respondent to exit and to follow the red Mazda. However, the blue Honda Accord did not exit and proceeded straight on.

(3) The red Mazda led them to a car park in Aljunied. Yeo went over and spoke to the occupants of the Mazda. The driver of the Mazda (Lai) reversed his car and parked it beside the respondent`s car. He then said to Yeo that they should not use the respondent`s car as `the person` would not be able to recognize it. Yeo replied that they would drive Lai`s red Mazda there instead. Lai spoke to the respondent and said that he wanted to put two bags of things in his car and he would come and collect them later. Lai then took out two blue plastic bags. The respondent was under the impression that they contained clothing and gave his car key to Lai who opened the car boot and put them in. The respondent and Yeo then got into Lai`s red Mazda and they drove to an Indian coffee house in Geylang to have a meal.

(4) Later, two male Chinese arrived and entered the Chinese coffee-shop next door. Lai, his friend and Yeo all went to join them. The respondent remained seated where he was. Twenty minutes later Lai, his friend and Yeo returned. Yeo told the respondent to wait there for him whereupon everyone left, leaving the respondent behind.

(5) More than an hour later, Lai returned with his friend. Yeo was not with them. Lai asked for the respondent`s car key saying that he wanted to collect the things from the respondent`s car. The respondent gave him the car key and told him not to take too long. Lai assured him that he would not and left.

(6) While waiting for Yeo, the respondent paged for him but there was no reply. Two to three hours later Yeo arrived in the blue Honda Accord. The respondent scolded Yeo and asked him why Lai was taking so long and why his car key had been taken away. The driver of the blue Honda Accord (Ah Hai) assured him that they would be back soon. The respondent said that there was no reason for them to take so long and he did not know what they were doing with his car. He then said that his bank passbook and his passport were in the car and he wanted to make a police report. Ah Hai said that he would ask his boss to settle the car matter with him. Both the respondent and Yeo then boarded Ah Hai`s car and left for Woodlands where they were arrested.

(7) In the concluding paragraph of his statement, the respondent said that, from the beginning when he drove Yeo down to Singapore, he did not play an active role in the entire transaction and that he was merely listening to their conversation and following them. He maintained that he did not know Lai or Tee.

Prima facie case

The trial judge held that the respondent had possession of the key to the boot initially, and was the owner of the car where the drugs were...

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