40-year-old Singaporean woman sentenced to mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking

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A 40-year-old Singaporean woman was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty earlier this month after she was caught selling heroin, methamphetamine, cannabis and Erimin from her HDB flat and charged with trafficking a total of 1kg of drugs containing 30.72g of pure heroin.

The woman, Saridewi Djamani, had claimed that she was stocking up on heroin for her own personal use during the fasting month and had claimed she was suffering from persistent depressive disorder and severe substance use disorder.

High Court judge See Kee Oon, however, noted that Saridewi did not deny selling the drugs but tried to minimise the scale of her trafficking business, in his grounds of decision released last Thursday.

Saridewi was caught on 17 June 2016 when a Malaysian accomplice, 41-year-old Muhammad Haikal Abdullah, met her at her HDB block around 3.35pm and gave her a plastic bag filled with drugs, in exchange for two envelopes containing a total of $15,550.

The pair did not realise that Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers were monitoring them. Haikal was apprehended at a traffic junction while officers approached Saridewi’s 16th floor flat to arrest her.

The court heard that Saridewi flung the plastic bags containing the drugs out of her kitchen window when she heard sounds outside her door, before opening the door to let officers who were preparing to cut through the metal grille gate in.

Saridewi was charged with trafficking 30.72g of heroin. The mandatory death penalty applies to those convicted of trafficking more than 15g of heroin.

During trial, the Singaporean claimed that she had only been planning to sell 11.71g of heroin since she wanted to keep 19.01g of heroin for her own personal use. Saridewi claimed that her drug addiction was so severe during the fasting month that her heroin intake would go up to 12g a day.

Justice See, however, noticed inconsistencies in Saridewi’s claims.

Even though Saridewi claimed in court that she is a severe heroin addict who had relapsed, she had told investigators earlier that she had stopped smoking heroin since she was released from prison in 2014.

Further, a urine test administered after her arrest in June 2016 did not show any signs of heroin use. The judge said:

“Based on her account that she was consuming one to two straws every three days, (one of the drug exhibits) would have lasted Saridewi about 682 days…The need to stock up almost two years’ worth of supply of (heroin) was unbelievable.”

A psychiatrist from the Institute of Mental Health also found that Saridewi did not suffer from any mental illness or intellectual disability besides her longstanding history of drug abuse – contrary to her claims that she suffers from persistent depressive disorder.

Saridewi is presently appealing against the mandatory death penalty sentence.

Meanwhile, Haikal was charged with trafficking 28.22g of the drug. Although the Malaysian claimed that he thought he was delivering medical drugs, those who are found in possession of over 2g of heroin are presumed to be trafficking the drug unless proven otherwise, under Singapore law.

Haikal was sentenced to life in prison and the mandatory minimum 15 strokes of the cane, since he was only a courier and since he had assisted the CNB substantively during investigations.

According to amendments to the mandatory death penalty that were passed last year, meeting these two specific, tightly-defined conditions gives the court the discretion not to impose the death sentence.