Female drug trafficker gets jailed for life
The Malaysian woman said she trusted her husband so much she did not think twice when told to take their baby to Singapore, collect a bag for his friend and bring it back to Malaysia.
But the bag she collected was found to contain some 1.8kg of methamphetamine, also known as Ice, and Komal Rihan Nand Kumar, 31, found herself surrounded by Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers at the Woodlands Checkpoint.
It would be the beginning of a three-year ordeal with the gallows hanging over her after she was charged with drug trafficking.
Komal and Ghanaian national Mohammed Fauziya, 35, were yesterday sentenced to life imprisonment following a seven-day trial in January.
Lawyers Luke Lee and Nicholas Aw represented Komal, while Mr B. Rengarajoo and Mr M. Lukshumayeh represented Fauziyah.
Komal, a kindergarten teacher, was married to a man referred to in court documents as Emman Bishop Engkuwu. He was a footballer with Shah Alam Celtic Football Club, an amateur club in Kuala Lumpur.
The couple have a daughter.
During the trial, the relationship between Komal and her husband was portrayed as one where she simply did his bidding.
"Whatever the husband says, we will just follow. We do not go against the husband," she said in court.
Repeatedly saying that the burden was hers to bear, she insisted that her husband should not be implicated and even admitted to lying in her earlier statements to protect him.
Investigations revealed that in late February 2012, Komal's husband told her to take their child to Singapore and collect a bag from his friend.
This was her third such trip.
On Feb 1, she went to Siem Reap in Cambodia with her daughter, where she was told to collect a bag from a Thai woman.
About two weeks later, she came to Singapore on a similar mission but the other person did not appear.
"I've done so many things for him and this is what he did to me," she said, referring to how her husband endangered her and their daughter's lives.
On Feb 21, Komal came to Singapore again with her daughter who was then only seven months old.
She was instructed to go to the Golden Royal Hotel on Desker Road, where Fauziya was waiting with the luggage.
Closed-circuit television video footage from the hotel lobby showed Fauziya sitting on a sofa, waiting for about 10 minutes.
Around 5.40pm, Komal was seen entering the lobby with her daughter in one arm and a bag slung over her other shoulder. A Barney stuffed toy could be seen on top of the bag.
She greeted Fauziya and the two entered the hotel lift. They went to Fauziya's room on the third storey.
There, she collected a black bag from Fauziya and the two women returned to the lobby where Fauziya walked Komal to the door.
Fauziya checked out of the Desker Road hotel and moved to a cheaper boarding house on Serangoon Road.
Komal went to Queen Street, where she shared a Malaysian taxi with two strangers.
At about 7.10pm, the taxi was stopped at an Immigration Checkpoint Authority counter and was directed to a group of waiting CNB officers who took them to the K9 garage.
Komal told an officer that she had black luggage in the taxi boot and an officer told her to take the bag out.
There were also officers from the Police Dog unit with their dogs.
As one of the CNB officers started to search the bag, Komal turned hysterical and started to cry loudly.
She seemed to be losing her balance, so officers gave her a chair to sit on, and helped carry her baby when she appeared breathless.
She then appeared to bite her tongue, so officers held onto her jaw, with one of them even putting her fingers in Komal's mouth to prevent her from biting her tongue.
The officer later put a small towel in Komal's mouth to prevent her from hurting herself.
When an officer slit open the side of the luggage, some white substance was seen and Komal was arrested. The white substance was later found to be methamphetamine.
After her arrest, Komal's child was taken from her and is now in an orphanage in Penang. Her husband is believed to be on the run.
The loss of her daughter was something that weighed heavily on Komal during the three years it took for the case to be concluded.
An Institute of Mental Health report stated that Komal "cries frequently thinking about her daughter, who is in a 'home' as informed by prison officials".
Even in a handwritten statement, she pleaded for "mercy opon my daugthe (sic)", and asked to be given a life "for my daughter (sic)".
While in prison, she had episodes where she banged her head against the wall, shouting and slashing her wrists with staple pins or the hook of a urine bag, the report added.
Throughout the seven-day trial, hearings often had to be adjourned because Komal was too emotional to continue.
During the sentencing hearing yesterday, Komal was seen staring into space as court proceedings were translated by a Malay interpreter.
Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Ping noted that both Komal and Fauziya had been granted certificates of substantial cooperation for assisting the CNB in disrupting drug activities and sentenced them to life imprisonment instead of the death penalty.
The moment the session was adjourned, Komal started wailing and refused to get off the bench in the dock.
As prison officers tried to lead her out of court, she continued wailing and collapsed on her way out.
Speaking to The New Paper after the hearing, Komal's lawyer Lee said the findings were fair.
"Given the circumstances, this was the best outcome we could have hoped for. But unfortunately, she refused to believe that she would not be acquitted," he said.
Whatever the husband says, we will just follow. We do not go against the husband.
- Komal Rihan Nand Kumar
1 On Feb 21 at 5.45pm, Komal Rihan Nand Kumar meets Ghanaian Mohammed Fauziya at the Golden Royal Hotel in Little India. Komal has her daughter, Nkechi, with her.
They go to Fauziya's room, where she hands a black luggage to Komal. After Komal leaves the hotel with the bag, Fauziya checks out and moves to a lodging house on Serangoon Road.
2 Komal takes a Malaysian taxi at about 6pm at Queen Street. At the Woodlands Checkpoint at about 7.10pm, the taxi is stopped and referred to a group of waiting Central Narcotics Bureau officers. Komal tells one of the officers about the luggage in the taxi boot.
3 As an officer begins searching her bag, Komal becomes hysterical, saying that the bag and its contents do not belong to her. An officer takes her baby away after Komal starts to have breathing difficulties.
At about 10pm, officers arrest Fauziya near her new accommodation.
She did it to save business
The other woman sentenced to life, Mohammed Fauziya, 35, is a mother of three who was trying to make fast money to save her business.
Back home in Ghana, she ran a business selling clothes but it was not doing well, according to court documents.
In June 2011, when travelling from Ghanaian city Kumasi to its capital Accra, Fauziya met a woman whom she knew only as Nana.
After hearing about Fauziya's business situation, Nana told her about a friend, known only as Young, who could help finance the fledging business.
In return, she would have to travel to another country with luggage. Fauziya agreed.
On Feb 16, 2012, Fauziya arrived in Niger, in west African, after two days of travelling and met Nana and Young. She put up at Young's home until she left for Singapore.
Before her departure, Fauziya was given a black suitcase full of traditional African clothing and told to pack her clothes in it too.
Shortly after, Young took Fauziya to the airport where he handed the bag to someone he knew before handing her some items including US$3,000 ($4,200), a SIM card for use in Singapore and hotel reservation papers.
She transited in Doha, Qatar, before coming to Singapore.
She did not stay at the arranged hotel because the taxi driver was unfamiliar with the area and took her to the Golden Royal Hotel on Desker Road.
After she handed the luggage to Komal, Fauziya moved to a Serangoon Road lodging house, where she was arrested.