Singapore

Malaysian man escapes hanging after he is acquitted of drug charge

A 38-year-old Malaysian escaped the noose when he was acquitted in the Court of Appeal yesterday of a charge of being a drug courier.

Beh Chew Boo was arrested in 2016 for allegedly trying to carry 499.97g of methamphetamine across the Causeway.

He was sentenced to death in January this year by the High Court.

Despite the acquittal, he will continue to be in remand while the court decides on how it will proceed on four other charges connected to his case that have been temporarily stood down.

The higher court - which was presided over by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang and Steven Chong - found, among other things, that there were insufficient grounds to prove Beh was completely aware that he was ferrying drugs.

His fingerprints and DNA were not on the parcels, and the motorcycle he was riding - on which the drugs were found - was borrowed from a friend.

Beh was arrested on Oct 26, 2016, when he entered Singapore from the Woodlands Checkpoint around 5.20am.

He was on a Malaysian-registered motorbike owned by his friend and ex-colleague Lew Shyang Huei. Beh's girlfriend Ting Swee Ling was riding pillion.

Police constable Israel Rajan, who stopped Beh and Ting for a routine check, found several bundles of a crystalline substance - later revealed to be methamphetamine - and arrested the duo.

Beh said he did not know the drugs were in the motorcycle. He also claimed he had borrowed the motorcycle from Lew many times to enter Singapore, as toll fees were cheaper than if he were to drive a car.

Beh denied the drugs were his.

He also claimed he had never seen them before his arrest and did not know the contents of the packages until they were unwrapped.

Justice Tay noted that Beh, at the time of his trial, could not rebut the presumptions of possession and knowledge, which resulted in his conviction.

But other factors justified an acquittal, said Justice Tay. For one thing, Beh's DNA was not found on any of the drug bundles, but Lew's fingerprints and DNA were found on the interior and exterior of the bundles.

Lew had been arrested for unrelated drug charges, and was sentenced in July 2018 to a seven-year jail term. He was in prison while Beh stood trial from July last year but was not called to testify.

Justice Tay added that the prosecution, in deciding not to call Lew to the stand, despite his being "readily available to testify", was not able to fully disprove Beh's defence that he knew nothing about the drugs.

COURT & CRIME