SingaporeMan who ordered tobacco but received marijuana instead escapes death on appeal

Man who ordered tobacco but received marijuana instead escapes death on appeal

A man ordered tobacco but received marijuana instead. He was then mistakenly regarded as a drug dealer and even sentenced to death. The Court of Appeal believed that he really received the wrong package and acquitted him.

Raj Kumar Aiyachami, 40, was sentenced to death after being convicted in 2020 of smuggling more than 1.8kg of cannabis. The Court of Apeal comprising Chief Justice Menon, Justice Andrew Phang and Justice Belinda Ang today (27 May) overturned the ruling and found him not guilty.

Ramadas Punnusamy, a 41-year-old lorry driver who was originally accused of delivering drugs, was also acquitted. He was originally sentenced to life in prison, plus 15 strokes of the cane.

On September 21, 2015, a lorry driver employed by a transport company in Johor Bahru drove into Singapore and handed over a red plastic bag to the defendant at the Senoko Drive.

Officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau had already been informed that there would be a drug deal that day, and two people were arrested shortly after.

The pair did not deny drug possession at the trial, but the justices asked if they knew about the nature of the drugs seized. The accused argued that he ordered special tobacco called ‘Butterfly’ but received marijuana instead.

The Court heard from the accused that he met a man named Mark Kalaivanan Tamilarasan in prison between November 2017 and January 2018. When the man learned of the arrest of the accused, he told him that he was also on the Senoko Loop on September 21, 2015, and that he had ordered marijuana, but received “butterfly” instead.

The defendant asked the inmate to tell his lawyer, who also testified for him in court. Mark confessed that he clearly remembered the date of that day, because his pet hamster died that night, and he also got this tattoo to record the date.

However, the trial judge hearing the case refused to accept the defendant’s cellmate’s confession, arguing that he had ample opportunity to collude with the defendant.

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The Court of Appeal judges however, believed that the confession of the accused cellmate should not be rejected unless there was evidence that the two had colluded, because the man’s testimony amounted to an admission that he had committed a very serious crime, one that he was not originally charged with or investigated for.

In addition, the statement of the lorry driver is also consistent, the judges noted. He has always insisted that he thought that what he brought into my country was tobacco, and refuted the claim that he knew in advance that the package was drugs.

Commenting on the acquittal in her Twitter feed, prominent anti-death penalty activist Kirsten Han said, “thank God Mark loved his hamster.”

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She added: “Freaks me out to think about what could have happened. Imagine if Raj hadn’t happened to meet Mark and discover the mix-up! He’d probably still be on death row and might have eventually been executed.”

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