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The Straits Times, Singapore, 6 March 2012, p.B2
Drug trafficker escapes gallows, gets 22 years' jail instead
By Selina Lum
A DRUG trafficker initially condemned to hang was given a second chance at life yesterday, after he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge.
Thong Ah Fat was sentenced to 22 years' jail and 15 strokes of the cane for trafficking in not less than 14.99g of heroin. The 33-year-old Malaysian was originally sentenced to hang in August 2010, for trafficking in more than 15g of heroin.
In December last year, a retrial was ordered after the Court of Appeal criticised the trial judge for not giving clear enough reasons for convicting Thong in his one-page written judgment.
An eight-day retrial before a different High Court judge was scheduled to start last Tuesday, but the case did not open. Instead, Thong's new assigned lawyers, Mr R. S. Bajwa and Mr Mahmood Gaznavi, made representations to the prosecution.
After considering the representations and "reviewing the case in the light of developments since the Court of Appeal decision", the prosecution decided to proceed against Thong on an amended charge of trafficking in not less than 14.99g of heroin, the Attorney-general's Chambers said in a statement yesterday.
It is an established practice for the prosecution to specify the quantity of drugs as "not less than" a certain quantity -- a shade below the threshold for the mandatory death penalty -- when it decides to bring a less serious trafficking charge against an offender.
The High Court heard yesterday that on the afternoon of Jan 12, 2009, Thong -- who has two children and last worked as a parquet layer -- was driving a Malaysian-registered car into Singapore when he was stopped for a routine check at Woodlands Checkpoint.
A search of the car uncovered a total of 10 bundles of drugs stashed under the driver's seat and in Thong's haversack. The packets were later found to contain not less than 142.42g of heroin in total.
Thong admitted in court yesterday that he knew the bundles he was bringing into Singapore contained heroin.
He admitted that he had been recruited in Malaysia to bring the 10 bundles into Singapore and hand them to someone in Woodlands. He was promised $600 and a free supply of Ice -- to which he was addicted -- after completing his delivery.
Pleading for a lenient sentence, Mr Bajwa said that Thong agreed to deliver drugs for a childhood friend to feed his addiction.
Mr Bajwa said that after he was sentenced to hang, Thong reflected on the "ultimate sentence" in prison.
"In his own words, he has 'faced death' and realises that he has been given a second chance to live," said the lawyer.
He added that Thong was grateful for the second chance, and assures the court that he will keep away from drug-related activities after his release.
The minimum punishment for trafficking in not less than 14.99g of heroin is 20 years' jail and 15 strokes of the cane.
The maximum is 30 years' jail or life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane.
The Straits Times, Singapore, 7 March 2012, p.A4
Jailed for Downtown East fight
By Elena Chong
THE first person convicted over his role in a 2010 Downtown East gang-related fight was sentenced to four years' jail yesterday.
Jason Chew Wei Beng (right), 21, was also given six strokes of the cane in the incident which claimed the life of a 19-year-old polytechnic student.
Chew, then a full-time national serviceman, was given another six months' jail for voluntarily causing hurt to a 20-year-old man at Bishan bus interchange in April 2010.
He had pleaded guilty earlier to rioting at Downtown East with 11 others, most of whom were from a secret society, on Oct 30 that year as well as the punching case at Bishan.
The victim, Darren Ng Wei Jie, who was from a rival gang, died about five hours later of injuries following the attack by several people armed with knives, choppers and a screwdriver.
Investigations showed that the incident arose out of bad blood between Stilwell Ong Keat Pin, 20, and Dickson Ng Teck Seng, 20, who was in Darren Ng's gang.
The two had challenged each other to a fight at Downtown East on Oct 30, 2010. Ong bought a chopper from a supermarket before heading to Pasir Ris Close with several others -- including Chew -- for a settlement talk. Chew was not a gang member but was close to the gang.
At Downtown East, Ong and a few other fellow members shouted a secret society slogan.
Darren Ng and five of his friends arrived outside a McDonald's outlet at about 5pm. Dickson Ng did not turn up.
Ong's group accused Darren Ng and his group of staring at them but nothing happened. Not long after that, Ong led his group of 10 to surround Darren Ng's group, accusing him again of staring.
During the confrontation, Darren Ng took out a retractable baton. He was stabbed and slashed by Ong and four others. Chew, who joined in the confrontation as he did not want to "lose face", was hit by Darren Ng's baton. He tried to kick Darren Ng but missed.
He then chased Darren Ng for a short distance before stopping.
Ong and seven others are facing murder charges in the High Court while the remaining three will be dealt with in the lower courts.
The Straits Times, Singapore, 14 March 2012, p.A3
Stiff sentence for loan shark
32-year-old will serve a further 20 months as he is unable to pay the fine
By Khushwant Singh
Derrick Neo Pek Lie, who operated from his home in Hougang, managed to grow his initial capital of $10,000 to more than $50,000 within eight months.
But the good times ended when a tip-off to the police got him arrested. Yesterday, Neo was sentenced to four years in jail and 21 strokes of the cane and given a $500,000 fine.
He pleaded guilty to 10 charges of acting as an unlicensed moneylender and seven charges of instructing his runners to commit acts of harassment such as scribbling graffiti and throwing paint.
A district court heard that he started as an agent in early 2010 for an illegal Internet soccer betting syndicate. He was so good at it that the syndicate leader roped him into the unlicensed moneylending business in May 2010.
He did not have to put up any capital as he was taking over an existing illegal moneylending "stall". A syndicate usually has several stalls, each managed by a trusted henchman who issues fresh loans, collects repayments and maintains records.
Neo, who worked from 6pm to 9pm daily, received 30 per cent of the profits.
Six months later, his share of the profits was increased to 50 per cent as a reward for his excellent work.
Unknown to the syndicate, he had also set up three stalls on his own with initial capital of $10,000.
Between November 2010 and July last year, he had 34 debtors and rolled out loans amounting to more than $50,000.
He kept all his records on Excel worksheets.
Defence lawyer N. Kanagavijayan said Neo, 32, was an Express student in secondary school but his academic performance was affected by the divorce of his parents when he was 16.
He stopped schooling after his O levels and joined the army as a regular. In 2008, he left the army to start a business installing fans in schools but it failed to take off.
The court heard that he is married to a Vietnamese woman and they are expecting their first child in September.
The lawyer added that Neo will be caned 21 times and that this was a "very painful and deterrent sentence" and should not be combined with a long and crushing jail term.
Arguing for a stiff sentence, Deputy Public Prosecutor Darren Tan had pointed out that Neo was not a runner but a "moneylender proper" who was in charge of issuing loans and instructing runners in their harassment acts.
Neo, who had been jailed four years and caned eight times in 2001 for drug trafficking, was expressionless when District Judge Lee Poh Choo handed down the sentence yesterday.
As he is unable to pay the fine, he will serve a further 20 months behind bars.
After the hearing, family members were seen consoling his sobbing wife outside the courtroom.
Lawyers told The Straits Times that it is not often a loan shark is brought to court.
"I believe this is the fourth such case in recent years as they are a very elusive bunch," said Mr Amarick Gill.
To prevent detection, loan sharks have been known to use bank accounts and cellphones registered in the names of debtors who become runners after defaulting on loans.
For acting as an unlicensed moneylender, Neo could have been fined up to $300,000 and jailed up to four years on each charge.
For getting his runners to harass debtors, Neo could have been jailed up to five years, fined between $5,000 and $50,000, and caned up to six strokes on each charge.
Another 17 charges were taken into consideration by the judge in sentencing.
STOMP (Straits Times Interactive) (web only), 28 March 2012
Drug trafficker jailed 21 years, to be caned 15 strokes
A 28-year-old Malaysian drug trafficker was jailed 21 years and ordered to be caned 15 strokes on Wednesday.
Devanatan Naggan, who worked at a cement factory here, was stopped at the Woodlands Checkpoint while riding his motorcycle into Singapore on the evening of May 12, 2010.
A search by Central Narcotics Bureau officers found two plastic packets of heroin stashed between the inner styrofoam cushion and hard casing of his motorcycle helmet.
The two packets were analysed to contain not less than 51.41g of heroin. But the prosecution decided to reduce the charge against Devanatan to a non-capital one, which stated that he had trafficked in not less than 14.99g of heroin.
It is an established practice for the prosecution to specify the quantity of drugs as not less than a certain quantity -- just below the threshold for the death penalty -- when it decides to bring a less serious trafficking charge against an offender. The prosecution does not have to give reasons for its decision to reduce the charge.
The minimum punishment for trafficking in not less than 14.99g of heroin is 20 years' jail and 15 strokes of the cane. The maximum is 30 years' jail or life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane.
Copyright © 2011 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd.
The Straits Times, Singapore, 28 March 2012, p.B6
Man gets 19 years for part in violent robberies
By Selina Lum
ONE of the two men has already been handed the death penalty, and yesterday it was the turn of the other to face the music.
The pair, childhood friends in Sabah who met again while working in Singapore, committed a series of violent robberies in 2008, one of which led to the death of a security guard.
After a trial last year, construction worker Fabian Adiu Edwin, 22, was convicted of murder and given the mandatory death penalty.
Ellarry Puling, a dishwasher, was found guilty of a lesser charge of robbery with hurt.
Yesterday, the 28-year-old was jailed for 19 years and ordered to be caned 24 strokes on that charge and five other charges of robbery with hurt, relating to separate incidents.
The High Court heard yesterday that he and Fabian were childhood pals in Sabah who had met again while working here.
They hatched a plan to commit robbery. Their modus operandi was to prowl the streets for potential victims carrying mobile phones, thick wallets and other valuables such as Cashcards.
They targeted small-built foreign men, as they felt female victims would scream loudly and draw attention. They would trail someone to a deserted spot before robbing him.
Yesterday, Ellarry admitted that, between July 27 and Aug 23, 2008, he robbed six men while assaulting them.
Besides Mr Loh Ee Hui, 35, who died from head injuries, two other victims lost consciousness from being assaulted.
The first victim was air-conditioner repairman Wang Huanqing, 21, a Chinese national who was walking home along Sims Avenue.
The pair punched and kicked him until he passed out. Fabian took Mr Wang's valuables, while Ellarry kept a lookout. They split the $500 loot.
On Aug 23, they were smoking when they saw Mr Loh sitting at a bus stop along Sims Avenue. Ellarry acted as the lookout while Fabian hit Mr Loh on the head with a wooden stick.
Later, they spotted Malaysian kitchen assistant Cheah Kwai Loy, 40, walking along Lorong 21A Geylang. Fabian punched the victim's head, kicked and stepped on him, while Ellarry kept watch.
Fabian, then 18, was arrested on Sept 7, 2008, while Ellarry, then 25, was nabbed the next day.
Pleading for leniency, Ellarry's lawyer B. Rengarajoo, assisted by Mr Balvir Singh Gill, argued that his client had agreed to join in the robberies only after Fabian's incessant persuasion, as he could not get by on his $100 take-home pay.
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