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Malaysian drug courier escapes gallows following apex court review

SINGAPORE — He has been on death row for two years, since the Court of Appeal overturned an earlier decision by the High Court to reduce his drug trafficking charge to one of attempted drug importation.

The five-judge Court of Appeal found that the prosecution had failed to prove that Gobi Avedian was “willfully blind” to the nature of the drugs — 40.22g of heroin that were found on him at Woodlands Checkpoint in 2014.

The five-judge Court of Appeal found that the prosecution had failed to prove that Gobi Avedian was “willfully blind” to the nature of the drugs — 40.22g of heroin that were found on him at Woodlands Checkpoint in 2014.

 

  • Gobi Avedian’s original sentence was 15 years’ jail and 10 strokes of the cane
  • The Court of Appeal overturned this sentence in 2018, but reinstated it on Monday
  • It found that the prosecution failed to prove that he was “wilfully blind” to the nature of the drugs he was carrying into Singapore

 

SINGAPORE — He has been on death row for two years, since the Court of Appeal overturned an earlier decision by the High Court to reduce his drug trafficking charge to one of attempted drug importation.

But on Monday (Oct 19), Malaysian drug courier Gobi Avedian, a 32-year-old former security guard, escaped the gallows as his original sentence of 15 years’ jail and 10 strokes of the cane was reinstated, following a review of his case by the apex court.

The five-judge Court of Appeal found that the prosecution had failed to prove that Gobi was “wilfully blind” to the nature of the drugs — 40.22g of heroin that were found on him at Woodlands Checkpoint in 2014.

In particular, the prosecution did not challenge Gobi’s defence that he believed that the drugs were a mild form of “disco drugs” mixed with chocolate and would not attract the death penalty, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said.

Gobi could now be released from jail in about four years’ time, since he has served about six years so far and stands to receive a one-third remission on his jail sentence, his lawyer M Ravi told TODAY after Monday’s hearing.

The review came as Mr Ravi filed an application in February this year, in light of the outcome of the appeal of Nigerian Adili Chibuike Ejike, who walked free last May after the Court of Appeal squashed his conviction of importing almost 2kg of methamphetamine.

Ejike’s overturned conviction was based on Section 18(1) of the Misuse of Drugs Act, which states that any person who is proved to possess or be in knowledge of controlled drugs shall be presumed to have had that drug in his possession until the contrary is proved.

In that case, the court had held that wilful blindness has no relevance to and should not feature at all in considering whether the presumption has been rebutted.

Mr Ravi submitted that this should be extended to Section 18(2) of the same Act, which states that any person who is presumed to possess a controlled drug shall, until the contrary is proved, be presumed to have known the nature of that drug.

He argued that since the prosecution’s case was that Gobi was wilfully blind to the nature of the drugs, they could not have invoked this presumption in the first place.

The court had heard that Gobi, who lived in Johor Baru and commuted to Singapore for work, approached a friend in 2014 for some part-time work as he needed funds for his daughter’s operation, and was introduced to someone called Vinod.

Vinod told Gobi that he could earn some money by delivering to Singapore drugs that were mixed with chocolate and were to be used in discos, adding that they were “ordinary” and “not serious” and that he would receive “just a fine or a small punishment” if he was apprehended.

Gobi initially refused Vinod’s offer. But as the date of his daughter’s operation approached, he grew desperate as he had not managed to raise enough money and consulted another friend to ask if the drugs described by Vinod would be problematic.

It was only after this friend, who is referred to as only “Jega”, informed him that such drugs were “not… very dangerous” and “should not be a problem” that Gobi accepted Vinod’s offer and proceeded to deliver drugs for Vinod on eight or nine occasions.

On each occasion, Gobi would collect packets of drugs, which indeed looked like they had been mixed with chocolate, and wrap them as Vinod had instructed.

Gobi was, however, arrested with the drugs at Woodlands Checkpoint on Dec 11, 2014, and slapped with a capital drug trafficking charge.

During his trial, High Court judge Lee Seiu Kin believed his account that he did not know the bundles he was carrying contained heroin, and convicted him on a less severe charge of attempted trafficking of a Class C drug, and sentenced him to 15 years’ imprisonment and 10 strokes of the cane in 2017.

The prosecution successfully appealed the case in 2018. 

Deputy Chief Prosecutor Mohamed Faizal Mohamed Abdul Kadir argued during the review that the prosecution’s case during its trial and on appeal was that Gobi had “actual knowledge” of the nature of the drugs, and not that he was wilfully blind.

“The applicant’s concoction of the narrative involving ‘Jega’ is not merely an afterthought but would appear to have been undertaken out of deliberate realisation of his guilt,” the prosecution wrote in their submission.

But CJ Menon and Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang, Judith Prakash, Tay Yong Kwang and Steven Chong ruled the prosecution’s case against Gobi at trial was one of wilful blindness to the nature of the drugs, or they would not have invoked the Section 18(2) presumption.

The judges added that Gobi’s conviction on the capital charge would “remain safe” only if the prosecution had proven that he was wilfully blind to the nature of the drugs, but noted that the prosecution had only contended that it was “not reasonable” for Gobi to have believed Vinod and Jega.

“In the absence of any suggestion that (Gobi) had in fact disbelieved Vinod’s and Jega’s assurances or suspected that their assurances were untrue, there was no duty on his part to make further inquiries, and we find that he was not wilfully blind to the nature of the drugs,” the judges said.

Related topics

drugs appeal court crime

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