A Malaysian man of Indian origin escaped the gallows for a second time on Monday after a court in Singapore found him guilty of a reduced charge of attempted drug importation, setting aside another court ruling of death sentence.
Gobi Avedian, 32, was sentenced instead to 15 years in jail and 10 strokes of the cane, with the sentence backdated to the date of his remand, reported the Channel News Asia.
In its decision, the Court of Appeal found that the prosecution had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Gobi, who claimed he did not know the bundles he was carrying contained heroin, had been "wilfully blind".
The decision came after Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, together with Appeal Judges Andrew Phang, Judith Prakash, Tay Yong Kwang and Steven Chong reviewed and overturned an earlier decision by the Court of Appeal.
Gobi was a security guard living in Johor Bahru, the southern-most city of Peninsular Malaysia, and commuting to work in Singapore at the time of the offence in 2014.
He was introduced to a person known only as Vinod, who told him he could earn money by delivering drugs mixed with chocolate to Singapore.
Vinod told Gobi that the drugs were to be used in discos and were "ordinary" and "not serious". He also assured Gobi that he would receive "just a fine or small punishment" if he was caught.
The court documents state that Gobi initially refused to carry out the delivery but eventually did so because he needed money for his daughter's operation.
He delivered the drugs from Malaysia to Singapore on eight or nine occasions, receiving 500 Malaysian Ringgit for each delivery.
Gobi was caught on December 11, 2014 at Woodlands Checkpoint and subsequently handed a capital charge of importing 40.22-gram of heroin but a High Court judge reduced it to one of attempted drug importation in 2017.
In 2018, however, the prosecution appealed on the grounds that the High Court judge had "erred" in the decision, and the Court of Appeal convicted Gobi on the original capital charge.
On Monday, the Court of Appeal reversed the decision based on new findings of law handed down in another case of drug smuggling.
In order for the prosecution to prove the offence of drug importation, they have to prove that the accused was in possession of the drugs, that they had knowledge of the nature of the drugs and that they had intentionally brought the drugs into Singapore.
The court found that there was a seeming inconsistency between the prosecution's case at trial and its case on appeal regarding Gobi's knowledge of the nature of the drugs.
The prosecution's case at trial was one of wilful blindness, but its case on appeal was of actual knowledge. The court found that this change prejudiced Gobi.