SINGAPORE, Nov 4 — A drug trafficker on death row had fabricated his defence that he had committed the act under duress, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in response to an online petition to pardon him.
This was the finding by the High Court in sentencing Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam to death in 2010 for importing drugs into Singapore and it was upheld by the Court of Appeal, which “flatly rejected his account of being coerced under duress”.
On Wednesday (Nov 3), MHA said that the High Court and Court of Appeal held that Nagaenthran’s mental responsibility for his offence was not substantially impaired. He was found to have clearly understood that what he did was a crime and took the “calculated risk” to pay off his debt.
MHA also said that it is helping Nagaenthran’s family with travel arrangements from Malaysia to Singapore, and that his visitors will be granted extended face-to-face visits daily.
The petition to President Halimah Yacob to pardon Nagaenthran was started on Oct 29. As at 6pm on Wednesday, more than 38,000 people have signed it.
The petition stated that the convict should be pardoned because he had testified that he was “coerced” into drug trafficking by a man who had threatened to murder his girlfriend.
The petition also stated that Nagaenthran has an intellectual disability and a low IQ, impaired executive functioning and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“Given that Nagaenthran is intellectually disabled, committed a non-violent crime, and was allegedly coerced by assaults and threats, we sincerely appeal for President Halimah Yacob to uphold Singapore’s commitment to the UNCRPD (United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) by pardoning Nagaenthran’s death sentence,” the petition read.
About the case
Nagaenthran, who is a Malaysian, was convicted and given the death penalty in November 2010 for importing 42.72g of heroin a year before.
He had first appealed to be resentenced under amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act that were passed in 2012.
The amendments allow a court to sentence a drug offender to life imprisonment instead of death if he was merely a courier, on the condition that the public prosecutor issues the offender a certificate of substantive assistance — for helping the Central Narcotics Bureau disrupt drug trafficking activities.
Nagaenthran then lodged a second appeal for a judicial review into the public prosecutor’s decision not to issue him a certificate of substantive assistance.
The High Court dismissed both applications and, in 2019, the Court of Appeal dismissed both of Nageanthran’s appeals against the High Court’s decision.
“His petition to the President for clemency was unsuccessful,” MHA said.
He ‘clearly understood’ nature of acts
Responding to queries from TODAY, MHA pointed to the High Court’s findings that Nagaenthran’s claim that he had delivered the bundle under duress from someone who allegedly assaulted him and threatened to kill his girlfriend was “fabricated” and inconsistent with his other accounts.
“Nagaenthran himself resiled from his claim of duress in subsequent proceedings, and accepted that he committed the offence because he needed money, as opposed to having been labouring under any threat,” MHA said.
The ministry added that the Court of Appeal found that Nagaenthran’s “vacillation between various accounts of why he had committed the offence did not aid his case at all”.
Both courts also held that his “mental responsibility” for his offence was not substantially impaired.
“Nagaenthran was found to have clearly understood the nature of his acts, and he did not lose his sense of judgement of the rightness or wrongness of what he was doing,” MHA said.
He had known that it was unlawful for him to be transporting the drugs, and he had concealed the drugs to avoid them being found. He was found to have done this with the intention of paying off some of his debts.
The Court of Appeal also found that this was “the working of a criminal mind” who had weighed the risks and benefits associated with the crime.
The court said that “Nagaenthran took a calculated risk which, contrary to his expectations, materialised. It was a deliberate, purposeful and calculated decision on Nagaenthran’s part to take the chance”.
MHA added that Nagaenthran was accorded full due process under the law and was represented by legal counsel throughout the process.
Next-of-kin guided on travel arrangements
There has also been a letter allegedly sent by the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) to Nagaenthran’s family, who lives in Malaysia, uploaded online in an article by media site Vice World News.
The uploaded letter stated that Nagaenthran would be executed on Nov 10.
The Vice World News site said that the family will have to foot the costs of travelling to Singapore such as taking Covid-19 tests, serving quarantine and buying travel insurance.
MHA said the costs that would have to be borne by Nagaenthran’s family for travelling here are the same as what anyone who wishes to enter Singapore from Malaysia would have to bear.
SPS has been in touch with his next-of-kin by phone and email on a daily basis since Oct 27 to explain and address any of the family’s queries on the required travel arrangements, MHA added.
“SPS has also liaised closely with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, Ministry of Health, Singapore Tourism Board, as well as other government agencies, to smoothen their travel application and make the necessary arrangements for entry into Singapore,” MHA said.
It added that upon their entry to Singapore, Nagaenthran’s visitors will be granted extended face-to-face visits daily and that SPS will “continue to render assistance to the family throughout”. — TODAY