Aussie court rejects man's appeal

AUSTRALIA - An Australian appeals court has refused to reduce the 14-year jail term imposed on a Singaporean drug trafficker to the 12 years his cousin received, though the latter was also involved in the crime.

The three-judge court in Sydney held the higher term for Lawrence Loh was justified as evidence showed he worked higher up the drug distribution chain, unlike Kho Chuan Tat, also from Singapore

"There is no legitimacy to the parity complaint raised by (Loh)," said Justice R.A. Hulme in grounds released yesterday.

Both men, who shared a rented room, were nabbed by Australian police shortly after they received a trolley case containing about 14kg of heroin from one Tan Chin Lai at a cafe near Sydney's Chinatown.

Loh placed the trolley in the boot of a cab which was then intercepted in the 2009 police sting.

Tan, whose citizenship was not stated, was arrested a day later at Sydney Airport.

The heroin seizure, with a retail value of up to A$20 million (S$23 million), "prevented that drug causing misery and destruction on the streets of Australia... and great harm would have been caused had the (trio) succeeded in distributing the drugs", said Judge P.G. Berman when dealing with Kho's case in 2012.

The cousins were convicted of supplying excess heroin, under Australian law.

The court found Loh had travelled from Singapore expressly to help in the crime and intended to pass on the trolley bag knowing it contained drugs.

But Kho, 38, a taxi driver, had come to Sydney as a tourist, though he accompanied Loh to receive the drugs.

CCTV footage and police surveillance pointed to Loh's bigger role. He dealt with Tan while Kho seemed relatively uninterested in the conversation between the two.

Kho was sentenced in 2012 to 12 years' jail with eligibility for parole from 2016. Loh, who was dealt his heavier sentence in 2010, appealed and sought parity with Kho, arguing the latter did not show "contrition nor assist authorities".

Loh, married with three children, said he was aggrieved he got a higher term as he had pleaded guilty, "was remorseful and had provided assistance".

He was to be paid A$40,000 for the crime and claimed he did the job as he was in debt for A$150,000 and desperate.

The appeals court maintained Kho's involvement was "significantly less" in the crime than Loh's and the starting point for Kho's sentence was 12 years, which was not reduced.

By contrast, the starting point for Loh's sentence was 16 years and was scaled down to 14 by the lower court, taking into account various factors including his guilty plea.

The court ruled the term should remain given the "substantial gravity of the offence".

Separately, the third offender Tan, 22, was jailed for 15 years and three months.

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