2 drug traffickers may be spared mandatory death penalty

SINGAPORE - Two convicted drug traffickers may be spared the death penalty following recent changes to drug laws here, after prosecutors said on Wednesday the two men had assisted the authorities in investigations.

Subashkaran Pragasam, 29, and Yong Vui Kong, 24, will be issued certificates that say they have substantively helped the Central Narcotics Bureau to disrupt drug trafficking activities, said the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) in a statement. This means they are eligible for a life sentence, which the court can hand down instead of hanging, if they can prove that they only played the role of couriers.

Subashkaran and Yong are the first two persons awaiting capital punishment who the Public Prosecutor has decided to issue certificates of substantive assistance to under the amended Misuse of Drugs Act, said the AGC.

Yong was convicted in 2008 of trafficking in 47.27g of heroin and given the death sentence, mandatory for offences involving more than 15g of the drug, while Subashkaran Pragasam was sentenced to death last October over 186.62g of heroin contained in nine packets.

Yong's had expired all appeals case sparked an outcry, because while he was sentenced to death, the charges against the alleged drug kingpin Chia Choon Leng, who purportedly told Yong to deliver the drugs, were discontinued.

After his arrest, he told police that Chia was the one who told him to deliver the drugs. But he refused to identify and testify against Chia in court, saying he was afraid of retaliation against himself and his family. Chia was charged with instigating Yong to transport drugs to Singapore as well as other charges. The prosecution later applied for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal, known as a DNAQ, of all 26 charges against Chia. He is now being held under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act which allows the Government to detain suspects without trial.

In April, Abdul Haleem Abdul Karim, 30 was the first man to receive such a certificate. He was convicted of heroin trafficking but spared the gallows, but his friend,who faced the same charge, was sentenced to hanging. Both men in this case admitted to the charges in February this year.

The law was amended to remove the mandatory death penalty in certain instances of drug trafficking in November last year. In the amended Misuse of Drugs Act, drug couriers deemed to have offered "substantive assistance" that leads to the disruption of drug trafficking activities would get a chance to escape the gallows.



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