Thu. Apr 15th, 2021

Illicit Drug: Singapore’s A’Court Clears Nigerian 9 Years After Arrest

Illicit Drug: Singapore’s A’Court Clears Nigerian 9 Years After Arrest

The Court of Appeal in Singapore has discharged and acquitted a Nigerian man on death row for drug trafficking, nearly a decade after he was arrested.

In a rare decision, the country’s Apex court reversed itself and found Ilechukwu Uchechukwu Chukwudi not guilty, five years after the same court convicted him of the offence. 

Ilechukwu faced a charge of trafficking about 2kg (1,963.3g) of methamphetamine, found in a black trolley bag he brought with him from Nigeria into Singapore on November 13, 2011.

He had collected the luggage at the airport in Nigeria, found only clothes in it. The luggage passed several immigrations checks in both countries without problems.

He handed the bag to a Singaporean’s Stall Assitant named Hamidah Awang at a Clarke Quay bus stop.

Hamidah’s car was then searched at Woodlands Checkpoint in River Valley Road, Singapore and drugs were discovered in the luggage.

The charge was punishable by death. 

Ilechukwu was then acquitted after a trial in the High Court in 2014, but the Appeal Court reversed that decision in 2015 and found him guilty of drug trafficking.  

His lawyers, who include; Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, Mr Suang Wijaya and Mr Johannes Hadi from Eugene Thuraisingam, as well as Ms Jerrie Tan from K&L Gates Straits Law, argued for the decision to be reviewed.

At the sentencing stage, they provided “material evidence” showing that Ilechukwu was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with dissociative symptoms.

The Court of Appeal then ordered a review of the case in light of the fresh evidence, given by the psychiatrist who was a prosecution witness.

At the review, the court upheld their submissions and found that Ilechukwu experienced PTSD symptoms while giving statements to authorities. 

In a split decision, four out of five justices on the case today, (September 17, 2020) found that Ilechukwu did not know there were drugs in the bag, finding that he had been “deceived” unwittingly into transporting drugs.

The upper Court quashed its own decision, setting the Nigerian free. 

“The picture that emerges from the evidence is that he had grossly misjudged (his childhood friend and acquaintance), and naively believed that he was doing a simple favour in return for promised business contacts. 

“Unwittingly, he had been deceived into transporting drugs on their behalf to (their) contact in Singapore,” the judges added.

Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang dissented, while Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Senior Judge Chao Hick Tin, and Judges of Appeal Judith Prakash and Andrew Phang ruled in Ilechukwu’s favour.In a statement, Ilechukwu’s lawyers said: “It has been a long and hard-fought pro bono case, involving specialist psychiatric evidence and issues of cross-cultural sensitivities…

“Had it not been for the fortuitous production of the IMH report, our client would have been sentenced to death or life imprisonment. We are delighted that justice has prevailed to acquit our client this morning”.

Ilechukwu’s acquittal makes it the second time in the last two years that a Nigerian citizen has defeated a capital drugs-related offence in Singapore. 

In May 2019, Adili Chibuike Ejike, who had been sentenced to hang for importing almost 2kg of methamphetamine, was cleared by the Court of Appeal. Adili had similarly been arrested in 2011 in a related case.

Ruling
“The picture that emerges from the evidence is that he had grossly misjudged (his childhood friend and acquaintance), and naively believed that he was doing a simple favour in return for promised business contacts. 

“Unwittingly, he had been deceived into transporting drugs on their behalf to (their) contact in Singapore,” the judges added.

Ilechukwu had originally been tried with Hamidah, with the trial judge acquitting him of drug trafficking, but convicted Hamidah of a different charge.

Ilechukwu ran a business selling second-hand electronic goods in Nigeria and had come to Singapore in November 2011 to buy used laptops for sale. 

The black bag had been passed to him by a stranger introduced by a childhood friend and Ilechukwu had been asked to pass it on to someone in Singapore.

When Ilechukwu inspected the luggage bag, he claimed that he found only clothes. The first court that acquitted him had found that the drugs were “well-hidden”.

Ilechukwu entered Singapore with the drugs and they were uncovered only after he passed the bag to Hamidah, who was apprehended at Woodlands Checkpoint. 

The prosecution appealed against Ilechukwu’s acquittal, and the Court of Appeal reversed the decision, convicting Ilechukwu in 2015.

Culled from The Nation Online Newspaper