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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Drug trafficking: Singapore’s Court frees Nigerian after nine years

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In a rare decision, the country’s apex court reversed itself and found Ilechukwu Uchechukwu Chukwudi not guilty, five years after the same court convicted him of the offence.

Ilechukwu faced a charge of trafficking almost 2kg (1,963.3g) of methamphetamine found in a black trolley bag he brought with him from Nigeria into Singapore on November 13, 2011.

He was said to have collected the luggage at the airport in Nigeria and found only clothes in it.

The luggage passed several immigrations checks in both countries without problems.

He handed the bag to a Singaporean stall assistant named Hamidah Awang at a Clarke Quay bus stop.

Hamidah’s car was then searched at Woodlands Checkpoint in River Valley Road, Singapore and drugs were discovered in the luggage.

The charge was punishable by death.

Ilechukwu was then acquitted after a trial in the High Court in 2014 but the appellate court reversed that decision in 2015 and found him guilty of drug trafficking.

His lawyers — Eugene Thuraisingam, Suang Wijaya and Johannes Hadi from Eugene Thuraisingam LLP, as well as Jerrie Tan from K&L Gates Straits Law — argued for the decision to be reviewed.

At the sentencing stage, they provided “material evidence” showing that Ilechukwu was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with dissociative symptoms.

On August 3, 2017 the Court of Appeal then ordered a review of the case in light of the fresh evidence, given by the psychiatrist who was a prosecution witness.

At the review, the court upheld their submissions and found that Ilechukwu experienced PTSD symptoms while giving statements to authorities.

In a split decision, four out of five justices on the case found on Thursday (September 17, 2020) that Ilechukwu did not know there were drugs in the bag, finding that he had been deceived unwittingly into transporting drugs.

The apex court quashed its own decision, setting the Nigerian free.

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