Published: 08 July 2019
Mr Christopher de Souza: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) whether there is a need to review the provisions of the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) in light of the Court of Appeal's judgment in Adili Chibuike Ejike v Public Prosecutor; and (b) how will the presumptions in the Misuse of Drugs Act continue to function as key legal tools to battle drug trafficking within, into or through Singapore to make Singapore drug-free.
1. Adili Chibuike Ejike, was charged with importing almost 2kg of methamphetamine (commonly known as ‘Ice’) into Singapore.
2. A person will be guilty of importing under Section 7 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, if:
a) He is in possession of the drugs;
b) Knew of their presence and their nature; and
c) Brought the drugs into Singapore without prior authorisation.
3. In practice, it can be difficult to prove a person’s state of mind. To address this, the MDA builds in presumptions. When these presumptions apply, a person charged with importing prohibited drugs can be presumed to know of their presence, as well as their nature. It is then for the accused to give sufficient evidence to rebut the presumptions.
4. There is also the legal concept of ‘wilful blindness’. Under the law, a person will be treated as having knowledge of a fact, if it can be shown that he:
a) suspected something was amiss;
b) yet, did not verify his suspicion, out of fear of legal consequences; and
c) he had reasonable means of discovering the truth.
5. Adili was arrested at Changi Airport in November 2011 after flying in from Nigeria. Two packets containing close to 2kg of Ice were found concealed in the inner lining of his suitcase. Adili claimed that an acquaintance in Nigeria had told him to pass the suitcase to an unknown person in Singapore, and that he was given about USD$5,000 for his travel expenses. He claimed that he did not know what the suitcase contained, why he had to deliver it. And he did not ask those questions of his acquaintance.
6. The one key issue was whether Adili could rebut the presumption that he knew the nature of the drugs in his suitcase. The Court of Appeal noted that the Prosecution in their cross-examination of Adili, and in their arguments in addressing this issue, had conceded that Adili did not actually know of the presence of the drugs.
7. Members will appreciate: Once the Prosecution accepts that the accused did not know of the presence of the drugs, then the presumption cannot apply. The presumption allows the Court to conclude that the accused did know. But if the Prosecution accepts that the accused did not know of that fact, then obviously the presumption cannot be relied upon. This legal reasoning is neither novel nor new, and is not in any way different from the Government’s understanding of the law.
8. There are other observations made by the Court of Appeal on wilful blindness. We are studying those observations carefully, and will set out the Government’s views in due course and whether any legislative amendments are necessary.