Two escape gallows after split decision
Court of Appeal split over handling of drug evidence after arrests
Two men, originally sentenced to hang for heroin trafficking, were cleared yesterday after a split decision by the Court of Appeal, with two of the three judges pointing to inconsistencies in how the seized drugs were handled after the arrest.
In acquitting Mohamed Affandi Rosli and Mohamad Fadzli Ahmad of trafficking 132.82g of heroin, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Senior Judge Chao Hick Tin said the prosecution had failed to establish the chain of custody of the exhibits.
The majority noted that the prosecution bore the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the drug exhibits analysed by the Health Sciences Authority were the same that were seized by Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers.
Two CNB officers each gave a differing account of how the drugs were handled after they were seized.
Dissenting with the majority decision, Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang said there was no break in the chain of custody.
Affandi and Fadzli were arrested separately on July 12, 2013, in a CNB operation. Fadzli was arrested with methamphetamine in his car and nimetazepam tablets were later found in his flat. Affandi was arrested shortly afterwards. Heroin and methamphetamine were found in his vehicle.
Affandi was given the death penalty for having 132.82g of heroin for the purpose of trafficking, and Fadzli was given it for abetting him. They were convicted of non-capital charges in relation to the other drugs.
During their appeal, Affandi’s assigned lawyer, Mr Michael S. Chia, attacked the integrity of the chain of custody of the exhibits.
One officer said the drugs were put inside a black trash bag, which was placed on the front passenger seat of the CNB vehicle while the team was on the move. He said he took the bag with him when they searched Affandi’s flat.
The other officer said he held on to the bag, which he said was blue. He said that while the team were in the CNB vehicle, the exhibits were inside the boot.
The majority said: “In each case, each version was supported by the robust evidence of a senior law enforcement officer. But both could not possibly be true. Nor was any plausible explanation put forward by the prosecution as to how these inconsistencies were to be reconciled.”
But Justice Tay said that going by either version of events, the exhibits were always in a trash bag and in the custody of the CNB team.
There was no evidence that the exhibits were mixed up with other exhibits or that there was a possible mix-up or contamination, he said.
Affandi and Fadzli are in custody pending a decision about the non-capital charges.