The father of a well-known Australian jewellery designer and socialite who spent almost a year on death row in 2018 due to a drug-smuggling charge has broken his silence, saying he still doesn’t know who set him up.
Phillip George Sceats, the father of Amber Sceats, spent 353 days on death row in Singapore’s Changi Prison two years ago. His legal team, composed of experts from Singapore and Australia, managed to prove that he had been set up, and the charges against him were dismissed.
According to Australia’s Daily Telegraph, Mr Sceats, a wealthy businessman, was on his way to Langkawi to celebrate his 64th birthday on March 7, 2018, transiting through Changi Airport. He had already gone through Immigration when his name was called by two officials, who asked him to go with them to the baggage carousel and to show them which luggage belonged to him.
He was then brought to a screening area and his suitcase was put through an x-ray machine. Upon opening his bag, authorities discovered two small bags with white powder in the front pocket of his luggage.
Mr Sceats was then arrested and brought to Changi prison.
He was told on March 10 that the two packets were cocaine and that he was going to be charged with trafficking a little less than 90 grams of the drug.
Officials asked Mr Sceats to sign the bottom of the charge sheet, to acknowledge that he had been informed that if he was found guilty, he would receive the death penalty, which would have made him the first Australian to be hanged since 2005 when Nguyen Thuong Van was executed.
Mr Sceats made a formal statement denying any knowledge of the drug found in his bag.
He told the Telegraph, “It was a terrible nightmare. At first, I thought this will sort out quickly and justice would prevail because I didn’t do it.”
His family hired Amarick Gill, Director & Founder of Amarick Gill LLC, a well known Singaporean lawyer, who has specialised in criminal defence cases in the past.
At the same time, narcotics investigators from the Central Narcotics Bureau also looked into the matter, as they found it “strange” that a rich Australian businessman would smuggle cocaine.
Mr Sceats told the Telegraph that the investigating officer “knew it was a set-up job” as no one would take the cocaine to Singapore, where it was worth ten times less than its price in Australia.
The businessman was given a lie detector test, which he passed. He also tested negative for cocaine.
When forensic experts tested the packets for fingerprints, none were found, although a very small trace of his DNA was found on the surface of one of the packets, which could have transferred from his luggage.
Mr Sceats recent message and banking histories were also checked, and nothing suspicious was found.
Of his 353 days on death row, he said that he “saw people disappearing,” taken away one by one, and had other difficult experiences, including making friends with prisoners who were taken away, which caused him to start to lose hope.
His family back home hired a team to discover who had planted the cocaine on him, including a former Queensland officer turned private investigator; a former Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner, a former NSW Deputy Police Commissioner and UN senior investigator, and a former Victorian Police Detective Senior Constable, who had over 100 years of police work between them.
The Telegraph says that Mr Sceats’ case was kept secret while the investigation ensued. The team gathered evidence and identified a possible person of interest.
Mr Sceats believes that a tip-off had been made while he was en route from Australia to Singapore, as his name and flight details were known by officials when he arrived.
Mr Gill, his lawyer in Singapore, sent the evidence gathered by his client’s team in Australia to Lucien Wong at the Attorney-General Chambers. He told the Telegraph that he had written the Government of Singapore “many times” asking for the source of the tip-off, but to no avail.
On February 23, 2019, on a day he was scheduled to appear in court, Mr Sceats received the news he was going to be released, which overwhelmed him so much he could barely stand up. He returned to Australia within 24 hours.
Back home, Mr Sceats told the Telegraph that he has suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and that his imprisonment has deeply affected his family.
“I am a broken man,” he said. “I would give anything to know what really happened.” —/TISG