An Australian judge refused bail for a Singaporean nabbed for allegedly importing 1.7kg of "Ice" into Perth, pointing to the gravity of the charge, which can draw a maximum term of life imprisonment.
Justice Robert Mitchell of the Western Australia Supreme Court ruled that the offence outweighed concerns of health or advanced age, as argued by the accused while being remanded in jail up to trial in July next year.
Jayakody Vengadaselam was detained at Perth airport in July after Australian Customs officers found the drug hidden at the base of a large black suitcase he brought, which also contained women's and children's clothing and handbags. He had been charged, remanded in jail since then and had applied for bail last month while awaiting trial.
The drug methylamphetamine - commonly known as "Ice" - was of high-grade, 80 per cent purity and could draw a A$1.3 million (S$1.5 million) fine, pegged to the drug's value, if he is convicted.
When interviewed by Australian police, Vengadaselam claimed he collected the suitcase in Shanghai where he had gone to sign documents for a business deal involving one Rolland Edward.
He claimed he agreed to travel from Shanghai to Perth - paid for by Mr Edward - to sign and collect other documents for the deal and hand over the suitcase. He added that he had opened the suitcase in Shanghai and saw nothing unusual.
He had meant to stay in Perth for three days and had made a similar trip for Mr Edward last year to Melbourne, where he delivered a suitcase to an African man, he said. The trip was rooted in a business deal made six months earlier with Mr Edward, a supposed banker from Burkina Faso who agreed to invest US$7 million (S$9 million) in Vengadaselem's Singapore-based company.
Justice Mitchell said he had a clean past, based on records available, but also noted he had no relevant connection with Australia and indicated to police he did not have much money. The judge found prosecutors had a "strong" case based on the material presented and held he might fail to show up for trial if allowed bail or if not remanded in jail.
"The seriousness of the offence and the strength of the case against (Vengadaselam) have informed my conclusion about flight risk," wrote Justice Mitchell in decision grounds released last week.
Vengadaselam's age and health conditions were not disclosed in the judgment.
The judge accepted that the "burden of incarceration on (Vengadaselam) is likely to be greater than the burden experienced by a younger person who does not suffer from any significant health conditions".
"However, it has not been suggested to me that the Department of Corrective Services will not provide appropriate medical care for (Vengadaselam) while he is in custody," he added.
A Central Narcotics Bureau spokesman declined comment when contacted by The Straits Times, deeming it inappropriate as the case was pending.
This article was first published on Nov 5, 2014.
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