News From Brunei, BORNEO BULETIN

Foreigner gets death for trafficking Syabu

By Rol Ezam and Malai FadleyRizal
A former cook, who claims he was under the belief of carrying ‘Ajinomoto’ to be delivered in Brunei for RM50, was sentenced to death by hanging yesterday as the packets he was transporting turned out to be Syabu worth $70,000.
The defendant, Mohammad bin Usin, 28, a Malaysian national, was sentenced to death by the High Court after he pleaded guilty to transporting from Miri, Sarawak to Brunei Darussalam 98.535 grammes of crystalline substance containing 74.534 grammes of Methylamphetamine.

“The defendant, in our judgment, has failed to discharge the burden of rebutting the statutory presumptions of possession and knowledge. On the evidence, the irresistible inference is that the defendant knew the package contained Syabu,” the judgement read.

"In summary, we are satisfied that the defendant received the package containing 74.534 grammes of Syabu directly from the two men whom the defendant met at the Miri bus terminal and agreed to deliver the package of Syabu to the waiting man at the Brunei-Sarawak border after being paid RM50.

"He knew the package contained Syabu when he took possession of it, he did traffic in the package of Syabu by transporting it from Miri to Brunei and he did import the package of Syabu by bringing it from Miri to this country by land.

"The evidence that the package seized from the defendant’s jacket pocket at the Sg. Tujoh Police Control Post on the evening of February 21, 2005 by one of the Assistant Narcotic officers, contained 74.534 grammes of Methylamphetamine (Syabu) in 98.535 grammes of crystalline substance is uncontroversial. So too is the evidence that the defendant had entered Brunei Darussalam from Miri carrying the package containing Syabu to deliver it to someone. The question is, did he know the package contained Syabu?

"We accept that the package found in the defendant’s possession was securely wrapped and the contents were not visible unless the package was opened. We also accept that the defendant readily admitted he was carrying the package immediately upon arrest; he consistently denied knowledge that the package contained Syabu in his statements and in evidence; and that no drugs were detected in his urine specimen collected on the day of his arrest. Nonetheless, we reject his assertion that he did not know the package contained Syabu when he agreed to deliver it.

"Having had the benefit of seeing and hearing the defendant giving his evidence we have to say he did not impress us as a truthful witness.

"The defendant was not in the situation of a servant or bailee who had no right to open the package and no reason to suspect that its contents were illicit.

"We find it incredible that the defendant would agree to deliver the package not knowing its contents save that he believed what he had been told by a person that it was ‘something like Ajinomoto’. We think the defendant’s conduct can be described as ‘willful blindness’ or deliberately shutting his eyes to the circumstances, from which the court may infer knowledge of the drugs found in his possession.

"We find it inconceivable that the defendant did not have any suspicion as to what the package might contain and that he was not even curious as to the contents. In our opinion, any reasonable person upon hearing such a vague description of the contents of the package, that it was ‘something like Ajinomoto’, would immediately have been alerted to the possibility that the contents were illicit or at the very least would have enquired precisely what it was when he was asked to deliver.

"The defendant gave no explanation as to what he thought the contents of the package were. He did not appear to us to be a simpleton or of such a servile nature that he would blindly obey the person’s instructions without question. On the defendant’s evidence, it would seem that he hardly knew the said person and the waiting man at the border, having met them only in early 2005. He said he considered the person as a friend but surprisingly did not know what he did for a living. In the circumstances, we think his professed disinterest in the contents of the package rings hollow.

"We disbelieve the defendant’s claim in cross-examination that he only received the package from his uncle when they reached the vicinity of the Sungai Tujoh Police Control Post. In our opinion, this was an afterthought by the defendant to distance himself from the package. We believe, on the admission by the defendant in his first statement and in evidence-in-chief, that he had received the package either directly from the person or through his uncle at the Miri Bus Terminal on the afternoon of February 21, 2005. He therefore had ample opportunity after receiving the package, before delivery, to open it and examine the contents. But even if he had only received the package from his uncle at the vicinity of the Sungai Tujoh Police Control Post, he could easily have asked his uncle for the package in order to inspect the contents before they set off from home to make the delivery that evening.

"The defendant’s evidence that he had agreed to deliver the package to the waiting man on behalf of the person gratuitously because he was ‘coincidentally’ going back to Brunei that day, is also wholly unconvincing. This evidence is contradicted by the admission of the defendant in his first and second statements that he and his uncle had each received RM50 from the said person to deliver the package to the waiting man.

“In our opinion, this story was concocted by the defendant in an attempt to bolster his defence that he was an innocent courier of the Syabu and had been made use of by the said person. It is our finding that the defendant had agreed to deliver the package for a payment of RM50 and he had received the same amount for delivering a similar package earlier,” Chief Justice Dato Seri Paduka Mohammad Saied and Judge Dato Paduka Steven Chong ruled.

The defendant lived with his parents and eight siblings at Pujut Corner, Miri. At the time of his arrest he was working as a cook for a catering company in Kuala Belait and had been employed by the company since 2003.

The defendant was arrested on February 21, 2005 by Kuala Belait Narcotics Control Bureau officers at the vicinity of Sungai Tujoh Police Control Post.