Suboh bin Ramli and Another v Public Prosecutor

CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date16 November 2000
Neutral Citation[2000] SGCA 62
Citation[2000] SGCA 62
Defendant CounselHay Hung Chun and Paul Chia (Deputy Public Prosecutors),Ang Sin Teck (Rajah Loo & Chandra) and Tan Tee Giam (Aw & Tan) (assigned)
Plaintiff CounselEdmond Pereira (Edmond Pereira & Partners) and Johan Ismail (Johan Ismail & Co) (assigned)
Published date19 September 2003
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 16 of 2000
Date16 November 2000
Subject MatterWhether prosecution proven beyond reasonable doubt first appellant has possession of drugs,Second appellant admits delivering bag but to male Malay on sixth floor,ss 5(1)(a), 5(2) & 17(c) Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 1998 Ed),Whether first appellant rebutted presumption concerning trafficking,Statutory offences,First appellant and another person in flat,ss 5(1)(a), 18(1)& 18(2) Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 1998 Ed),Trafficking in controlled drug,Evidence that second appellant delivers bag to person at flat on third floor,Finding drugs in bag,Criminal Law,Misuse of Drugs Act,Finding drugs on first appellant upon arrest,Whether prosecution proven charge beyond reasonable doubt,Finding bag containing drugs in flat


Cur Adv Vult

1. The first appellant, Suboh bin Ramli (‘Suboh’), and one Abdul Salam bin Mustapha (‘Salam’) were jointly tried before the High Court on a charge that they, on 22 December 1999, at or about 3.25 pm, at Block 489, Jurong West Avenue 1, #03-37, in furtherance of their common intention, trafficked in a quantity of not less than 165.67 grams of diamorphine by having such drugs in their 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 Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 1998 ed) (‘the Act’). Also tried jointly with them was the second appellant, Wong Kok Loong (‘Wong’), who was charged with trafficking in the same quantity of drugs by delivering the drugs to Salam and Suboh at Block 489, Jurong West Avenue 1, #03-37 on that day, at or about 2.20 pm, an offence under s 5(1)(a) and punishable under s 33 of the Act. At the conclusion of the trial, the learned judge found that the prosecution had not proved its case against Salam beyond reasonable doubt, and accordingly he acquitted Salam. The learned judge, however, found that the prosecution had proved the charges against Suboh and Wong respectively, and he accordingly convicted them of the charges respectively and sentenced them to suffer death. Both Suboh and Wong appeal against the decision of the learned judge.

The prosecution’s case

2. The evidence adduced by the prosecution was this. On 22 December 1999, at about 9.30 am, SSgt Subramaniam and W/Sgt Rahizah binte Rahim of the Central Narcotics Bureau (‘CNB’) were keeping observation at the vicinity of Block 137 Yishun Ring Road. At about 12.25 pm, Salam was spotted by the officers at the void deck of Block 137, and was seen leaving and taking a taxi. The officers trailed the taxi to Jurong West Street 41, where he alighted. He was then seen walking to a shop at the void deck of Block 486, where he bought something, and thereafter he was seen walking to Block 489. There, he took the lift to the sixth floor and upon coming out he was seen walking along the corridor and taking the staircase to the third floor. In Block 489, the lift does not stop at the floors, from the second to the fifth, but at the sixth floor. At the third floor, Salam was seen entering a flat, which subsequently was ascertained to be #03-37 of Block 489, Jurong West Avenue 1.

3. At about 2.05 pm, Suboh was seen by the CNB officers arriving at the vicinity of Block 489 in a taxi. He was later seen walking along the corridor on the sixth floor and taking the staircase down to the third floor and entering the flat #03-37.

4. At about 2.15 pm, a Malaysian vehicle bearing the number plate JDF 755 was seen entering the car park and parking in front of Block 489. The driver was seen alighting from the car, and he was Wong. He went to the void deck and was seen using his handphone and thereafter returning to his car for a short while. He was next spotted carrying a blue plastic bag, waiting at the lift landing of Block 489 and taking the lift up. A short while later the officers saw a person walking along the common corridor on the sixth floor to the left staircase and going to the third floor and then standing outside the flat #03-37 for a few minutes. Thereafter, that person was seen taking the same route back to the sixth floor. Subsequently, Wong was seen coming out of the lift on the ground floor, and this time he was empty-handed. He then moved his car to another parking lot. A short while later, he drove off. He was trailed by CNB officers and at the junction of Upper Thomson Road and Marymount Lane he was stopped and arrested.

5. At about 3.15 pm, Salam and Suboh were seen leaving the flat. As they emerged from the lift on the ground floor of Block 489, they were arrested. A body search was conducted on both of them. There were found on Suboh, among other things, ten sachets of heroin, a bunch of three keys, a Motorola pager and a Panasonic handphone. Nothing incriminating was found on Salam. Both of them were brought up to the flat and two of the keys found on Suboh were used to open the padlock to the gate and the main door of the flat respectively. The flat was searched and in the front bedroom behind a cupboard, the CNB officers found a green plastic bag, and inside it was a blue plastic bag which contained the following:

(a) five bundles of granular substance in a plastic bag which were wrapped in cellophane;

(b) a digital weighing scale;

(c) a red plastic bag containing: (i) five plastic spoons, (ii) numerous empty plastic sachets, (iii) a pencil and a roll of scotch tape, and (v) twelve sachets of heroin.

Upon analysis, the ten sachets found on Suboh were proved to contain not less than 6.16 grams of diamorphine, and the five bundles and twelve sachets seized from the flat to contain not less than 165.67 grams of diamorphine. The diamorphine contents of the sachets and bundles were not in issue.

6. At about 7.20 pm, on the same day, urine samples were taken from both Salam and Suboh, and sent to Department of Scientific Services for analysis. Salam’s sample tested positive for heroin.

7. A search was also carried out by the CNB officers at the respective addresses where Salam and Suboh lived, namely, Block 137 Yishun Ring Road, #04-176, and Block 407 Clementi Avenue 1 #02-50. But nothing incriminating was found in either of the flats.

8. After Wong was arrested a search was carried out on him and among the things found were: his passport, a yellow Ericson GF 768 handphone, a grey Nokia 3210 handphone, cash of S$170 and MR840. His car was also searched. A brown envelope containing S$9,500 and another brown envelope containing S$24,950 were found underneath the front passenger seat. Between the driver’s seat and passenger seat were found, among other things, a Nokia handphone battery, S$103.65 and MR63.20. Wong admitted ownership of all these items.

9. Statements were recorded from three of them under s 122(6) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 1985 ed), and as there was no challenge to these statements, they were admitted in evidence. In their respective statements, they said as follows. Salam said:

The thing is not mine. I have nothing to do with the house.

Suboh said:

I have nothing to say right now.

And Wong said as follows:

I did not give the heroin to the two Malay men. I only collected money from a Malay man whom I do not know.

There were also statements recorded from Salam and Suboh under s 121 of the Criminal Procedure Code, and these statements were also admitted in evidence, as there was no challenge as to the voluntariness of these statements. In these statements each of them exonerated himself and implicated the other, and the learned judge did not take into consideration those portions of these statements. For our purpose, nothing turns on these statements.

10. There were also recorded from Wong statements under s 121 of the Criminal Procedure Code (‘s 121 statements’). The admissibility of these statements was challenged by Wong on the ground that the recording officer threatened to assault him and at the same time offered him an inducement. The learned judge held a voire dire to determine the admissibility of these statements, and at the conclusion held that the prosecution had proved that the statements were made by Wong voluntarily. Accordingly, these statements were admitted in evidence. Parts of these statements are relevant in this appeal, and we shall refer to them in a moment.

Block 489 Jurong West Avenue 1, #03-37

11. Neither Salam nor Suboh was the owner or tenant of the flat, Block 489, Jurong West Avenue 1, #03-37. The registered owners are Hazlie bin Dolwahab (‘Hazlie’) and his wife, Sarimah binte Rahmat. At the material time, they were not residing at the flat. They had moved out to Hazlie’s parents’ flat, Block 517A Jurong West Street 52, #13-555. Prior to their move, Hazlie’s three brothers were also staying at the flat #03-37 of Block 489, and they had also moved to their parents’ flat at Jurong West Street 52. Hazlie said that since he and his family had moved out, he had never been back to the flat at Jurong West Avenue 1, except that occasionally he went back to collect his personal items. The last time he visited the flat was in October 1999.

12. Hazlie’s youngest brother is Hazafi bin Dolwahab (‘Hazafi’). Hazafi knew Suboh, having met him at the Reformative Training Centre in 1995 and in Changi Prison in 1996. After Hazafi had been released from the prison, Suboh met up with him and they had a drink together at a coffee shop in Haig Road. Suboh had also visited Hazafi on three occasions at the flat at Block 489, Jurong West Avenue 1, #03-37, while he and his family were staying there, before they moved to his parents’ flat at Block 517A, Jurong West Street 52, #13-555. Initially, in his evidence, Hazafi said that he did not give Suboh the key to the flat; nor had he lost or duplicated it. Later, while the trial was in progress, the learned judge directed the prosecution and defence to test the three keys recovered from Suboh, and it was found that one of the keys could open the front gate of Hazafi’s father’s flat. On account of this fresh evidence, Hazafi was recalled, and on being confronted with this evidence, he admitted that he gave the keys to Suboh, as the latter wanted a place to stay. However, throughout his evidence, Hazafi maintained that he did not know Salam at all. On this the learned judge found that Hazafi had never vacillated.

Salam’s evidence

13. Salam gave evidence in his defence. He denied any knowledge of the drugs found in the flat and denied that he had the keys to the flat. It is not necessary to deal with his evidence, as nothing in this appeal turns on it.

Suboh’s evidence

14. Suboh in his defence testified as follows. At about 1 pm on 22 December 1999, Suboh received a call from Salam, asking him if he would like to sell VCDs (Video...

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