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Drug trafficker on death row found by High Court to have altered accounts to reflect lower education qualifications: MHA

SINGAPORE — Malaysian drug offender Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, who is on death row, was noted by the High Court to be "continuously altering his account of his education qualifications", said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday (Nov 5).

Drug trafficker on death row found by High Court to have altered accounts to reflect lower education qualifications: MHA

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SINGAPORE — Malaysian drug offender Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, who is on death row, was noted by the High Court to be "continuously altering his account of his education qualifications", said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday (Nov 5).

He did so "ostensibly to reflect lower educational qualifications each time he was interviewed", added the ministry. 

The ministry said the High Court had assessed the evidence of psychiatrists who agreed that Nagaenthran was not intellectually disabled. This included a psychiatrist called by the defence, on behalf of Nagaenthran. 

"The High Court considered the facts, expert evidence from four different psychiatric/psychological experts, and further submissions by the Prosecution and the Defence. The High Court held that Nagaenthran knew what he was doing, and upheld the sentence of death," said MHA. 

MHA's statement in response to further media queries on the case follows calls from human rights groups and others to halt Nagaenthran's upcoming execution on grounds of intellectual disability and low IQ. 

A petition for President Halimah Yacob to pardon Nagaenthran, who faces execution on Nov 10, was started on Oct 29. It has been signed by more than 55,900 people as of Saturday morning. 

According to the petition, Nagaenthran was assessed to have an IQ of 69, impaired executive function and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) during his forensic psychiatric evaluation. 

Nagaenthran was convicted and sentenced to death in November 2010 for importing 42.72g of heroin. He had been caught in April 2009 while entering Singapore from Malaysia at Woodlands Checkpoint with the bundle of drugs strapped to his thigh.

Nagaenthran's appeal against his conviction and sentence was dismissed in July 2011.

In February 2015, Nagaenthran filed a re-sentencing application to set aside the death sentence imposed on him, and to substitute it with life imprisonment. 

An issue considered during the re-sentencing application was whether his mental responsibility for his actions was "substantially impaired" at the time he had committed the offence, said MHA in its statement. 

MHA added the High Court held that Nagaenthran "knew what he was doing" and upheld the sentence of death.

The Court also noted that his actions in respect of the drug importation offence revealed that he was “capable of manipulation and evasion”.

"For instance, when stopped at the checkpoint, he attempted to forestall a search by telling the Central Narcotics Bureau officers that he was 'working in security', thus appealing to the social perception of the trustworthiness of security officers."

MHA said the High Court also found that Nagaenthran was able to plan and organise on simpler terms, and “was relatively adept at living independently”. 

The Home Affairs Ministry said in an earlier statement that Nagaenthran's re-sentencing application was dismissed in September 2017, and that the High Court "found that Nagaenthran was not suffering from an abnormality of mind at the time of the offence". 

His appeal was subsequently dismissed in May 2019 and his petition to the President for clemency was unsuccessful. 

DECISION UPHELD IN COURT OF APPEAL

MHA said the Court of Appeal affirmed the High Court's decision, saying that it was satisfied that Nagaenthran "clearly understood" the nature of his acts, said MHA.

"The Court of Appeal noted that Nagaenthran knew that it was unlawful for him to be transporting drugs, and hence attempted to conceal the bundle by strapping it to his left thigh and then wearing a large pair of trousers over it. He undertook the criminal endeavour in order to pay off his debts, and hoped to receive a further sum of money upon successful delivery."

It also found that Nagaenthran’s actions “evidenced a deliberate, purposeful and calculated decision” that was carried out “in the hope that the endeavour would pay off, despite the obvious risks”.

This was “the working of a criminal mind, weighing the risks and countervailing benefits associated with the criminal conduct in question”, the Court of Appeal found.

MHA said that Nagaenthran "considered the risks, balanced it against the reward he had hoped he would get, and decided to take the risk".

The Home Affairs Ministry added that he was accorded full due process under the law, and was represented by legal counsel throughout the process. 

"The approach Singapore has taken has resulted in it being one of the safest places in the world to live, relatively free of serious crime, and without the scourge of drug related crimes and homicides — which take thousands of lives, and destroys countless young people and families, in some countries," said MHA.

In response to MHA's statement, the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign said it is aware that Nagaenthran had "expressed a general understanding" that his actions were wrong, admitted that he did it for monetary benefits, and made "some really clumsy attempts at defending himself" during the investigation and at the trial.

"What we find troubling is MHA’s portrayal of Naga as an individual with a sophisticated criminal mind despite the fact that he is found to have borderline intellectual functioning with an IQ of 69, mild ADHD, several cognitive impairments and mental health issues," the group of activists said.

"This makes us especially uncomfortable about his impending execution.

"Due to the findings of his psychiatric evaluation, Naga should never have been measured by a standardised yardstick in the first place.

"We call upon Singapore to do the right thing – halt the execution on 10 Nov 2021, commute Naga’s death sentence, and ensure that he receives the appropriate medical care and treatment for his condition." WITH CNA

Related topics

crime court appeal death row death penalty drugs MHA

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